ATLANTA - This is just about the last thing the Nationals needed right now.
Harper suffered a bad bruise up on his left side last night when he collided with the right field wall attempting to catch Tim Hudson’s fly ball. The ball went off Harper’s glove and bounced over the fence for a home run.
Harper showed the bruise to reporters last night, but said he would be fine to play today.
During a sixth inning at-bat, Harper grimaced while pulling his bat back to check his swing. He appeared to favor his side immediately after the check swing, then weakly grounded out to first on the next pitch.
Harper jogged half-way down the first base line and then stopped and turned back to the Nationals’ dugout.
In the dugout, Harper was met by manager Davey Johnson and head athletic trainer Lee Kuntz. The three apparently made the decision that Harper shouldn’t continue playing, and he headed down the tunnel to go to the Nats’ clubhouse.
Harper is leading the Nationals in every major offensive category this season. He came into today’s game batting .344 with nine home runs, 18 RBIs and a 1.150 OPS, which leads the National League.
The Nationals lead the Braves 2-0 after six innings.
Update: The Nats still have a 2-0 lead after eight, and Jordan Zimmermann is working another gem.
Zimmermann has now thrown 18 straight scoreless innings, allowing just three hits in that span. He’s allowed just two hits tonight, retired the last 17 batters he’s faced and has not walked a batter.
He’s at 107 pitches through his eight innings, and is probably done for the night. With his pitch count at that level and the Nats holding a two-run lead, we can expect Johnson will go to closer Rafael Soriano for the ninth.
For the second straight start, Zimmermann absolutely dominated a very good-hitting team. His ERA drops to 1.64 through six starts, and he’s quickly becoming one of the top starters in the game.
Update II: Soriano picked up his eighth save, working a perfect ninth to close out a 2-0 Nats win.
The Nats snap their nine-game losing streak to the Braves dating back to last season and do so on the backs of Zimmermann and Ian Desmond, whose two-run homer in the fourth provided the game’s lone runs.
The larger concern, however, is Harper. The Nationals can’t afford to lose their 20-year-old phenom for any significant stretch of time.
We’ll get an update on Harper in just a bit.