Harper back in the homer column (bullpen maneuvers backfire)

FLUSHING, N.Y. - In his first trip to the Big Apple as a big leaguer, Bryce Harper didn’t take long to make a statement.

Harper smacked a two-run home run off Chris Young in the top of the first inning, giving the Nationals what’s now a 2-1 lead.

Welcome to New York, rook.

It was Harper’s first home run since all the way back on June 28. He had gone 81 at-bats without a homer prior to launching an 85-mph fastball from Young into orbit.

Can we really call an 85-mph four-seamer a fastball? I’ll defer to you guys for judgment there.

Meanwhile, Jordan Zimmermann has been Jordan Zimmermann again today.

The righty has faced just one over the minimum through four innings, and the only blemish on his outing so far is a solo home run given up to David Wright in the fourth.

Wright is now batting .350 on the season, with 15 homers and 67 RBIs. The guy behind him - Ike Davis - is hitting .207.

Is there any reason to pitch to the Mets third baseman at this point?

Zimmermann already has five strikeouts and has thrown a whopping 44 of his 59 pitches through four innings for strikes.

Update: It’d probably be fair to say that Zimmermann was forced out of the game because of where he came up in the batting order.

Davey Johnson opted to pinch-hit for Zimmermann with two outs and a runner on first in the seventh inning, trying to add some more offense. Hitting for Zimmermann, Tyler Moore ended up striking out. That ended the road-half of the seventh.

With Zimmermann out of the game (having thrown just 89 pitches through six), Johnson then had to go to his bullpen. Drew Storen came in to face Wright and got a loud out on a fly ball to the track in center. Johnson went to his ‘pen again after the Wright out, bringing in Michael Gonzalez to face Davis, a left-handed hitter.

The move backfired, as Davis pounced on the first pitch from Gonzalez, sending it off the foul pole in right. The shot tied the game 2-2.

Johnson has done a fantastic job this season, pulling the right strings at the right times and navigating the Nats to the best record in the NL. But he seems unsure of how best to manage the seventh, eighth and ninth innings at this point. He doesn’t want to lean too heavily on Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard, and doesn’t know when is best to bring in Storen.

As a result, the Mets have tied this game as we go to the eighth.

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