Hearing from Soriano, Harper and Strasburg

The 1-2 pitch that Andre Ethier golfed over the right-center field fence for the game-winning homer off Rafael Soriano actually wasn’t in a bad spot.

Don’t believe me? Check out the strike zone plot on BrooksBaseball.com.

Soriano had set Ethier up by pounding four fastballs on the outside corner to start the at-bat, and being ahead in the count, the Nationals’ closer then tried to bury a slider down below the zone. That’s what he did, but Ethier stayed on the pitch and drove it out for his sixth homer of the season.

It handed the Nats a 3-2 loss and handed Soriano his second loss of the season.

“I tried to go down and away (then) down and in,” Soriano said, “and I don’t know how he hit that ball.

“When I make mistakes, it’s not easy for me. But when I make a good pitch, and they hit the ball good like tonight, there’s nothing I can do.”

The Nats dropped a game tonight that resembled many they dropped in the first half, but the team won’t let a rough start to the second half get them too discouraged.

“You know, it be the first game after the second half,” Soriano said. “We come back tomorrow and try to find the way that we can get a good opportunity. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

Bryce Harper got his first in-person look at the rocket of a right arm attached to Yasiel Puig’s body when Harper tried to tag up from second and reach third base in the second inning. Puig snagged Jayson Werth’s line drive and then fired a seed to third, and while Harper was called safe by third base umpire Eric Cooper, replays showed Juan Uribe’s tag beat Harper to the bag.

“He’s got an absolute cannon,” Harper said. “I think Uribe touched me on the leg, my hand, my whole body was in there. So it’s something that I’ll learn from next time and maybe not make it so close.”

Davey Johnson said he plans on putting Harper back in the leadoff spot tomorrow if Adam LaRoche has recovered enough from his bout of the flu to play. That’s fine by Harper.

“Whatever he wants to do,” he said. “It’s up to him. He makes the lineup. I’ll just try to have good ABs, and we’ve got (Zack) Greinke tomorrow so we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and hopefully we can get things going and try to get some runs.”

Stephen Strasburg had to battle some tough conditions tonight (the heat index at first pitch was 105 degrees) but he put together a nice outing, allowing just two earned runs over seven innings with one walk and six strikeouts.

It represented a big step back in the right direction for Strasburg, who had the worst start of his career his last time out, allowing seven earned over just two innings of work.

“I started to get a better feel for my changeup which I haven’t really had in a while now,” Strasburg said. “It’s still a work in progress. I went over some things in the bullpen with (pitching coach Steve McCatty) the last time out. I think it’s definitely helped so far. Just going to keep on trying to get the muscle memory and get back to where I want to be.”

Like Soriano, Strasburg didn’t feel the home run he allowed came on a mistake as much as it was a good piece of hitting. Hanley Ramirez dropped the barrel to a fastball down and on the outer-half of the plate and drove it out for a two-run homer that gave the Dodgers a lead.

“I thought it was a good pitch, but it’s a guy that’s hot right now,” Strasburg said. “He guessed right, oh well. You tip your cap.”

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