Harper’s rough stretch carries over into the field (a rally falls apart)

It’s no secret that Bryce Harper has been struggling at the plate recently.

Last night, Harper notched the dreaded Golden Sombrero, striking out all four times he came to the plate. Tonight, he’s gone 0-for-2 with a weak ground ball and a pop up.

But through his offensive issues the last couple months, Harper has still managed to play strong defense, getting good reads on fly balls and covering lots of ground. Tonight, one defensive miscue from Harper has cost the Nationals two runs and put them in a 2-0 hole.

With two outs in the fifth and Ross Detwiler spinning a gem, Harper got a terrible read on a line drive off the bat of Martin Prado.

Harper took a few steps in on the ball before realizing that it was heading over his head. He slammed on the brakes and tried to retreat towards the warning track, but it was too late. The ball got down for a two-run double, putting the Braves on the board.

Had Harper held his ground when the ball came off the bat to get a better read on it (as Jayson Werth often does in right), he might have had a chance to snag the liner for the third out. Instead, the Nats trail.

It’s a tough play, one which requires you to make a split-second decision on how best to cut the angle to the baseball. Harper did a nice job in the sixth inning cutting over to his left and turning on the jets to come down with a Freddie Freeman liner.

Still, he’ll probably be thinking about that one that got by him for a few innings.

Detwiler has been pulled after 5 1/3 innings. What looked like an incredibly promising start turns out to just be a solid one, as he departs having allowed the two runs, seven hits and a walk. The lefty struck out four and threw 78 pitches.

Offensively, the Nats have done very little against baby-faced Braves starter Kris Medlen, who has now thrown 17 1/3 straight scoreless innings dating back three starts.

Update: The Nats finally had something working against Medlen in the sixth, loading the bases with just one out with their No. 5 and No. 6 hitters due up.

It was a major chance to break through, but in the blink of an eye, the inning was over and the Nats were still scoreless.

Adam LaRoche had the first crack at the bases-loaded opportunity, but he took a swing at the first pitch he saw from Medlen and popped out to first. The normally mild-mannered LaRoche put his head down and screamed at himself on the way back to the dugout, showing his frustration.

Ian Desmond had a chance to pick LaRoche up, but two pitches into his at-bat, Desmond grounded into a force out, ending the threat.

It’s still 2-0 Braves as we go to the bottom of the seventh.

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