Fortified Nats lineup loses Harper to injury, gets shut out again

NEW YORK - Though their lineup is not yet at full strength, the return of Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy in recent days did give the Nationals batting order a more formidable look for the first time all season.

The results, though, were painfully familiar tonight, no matter who had been added to the mix.

The Nationals were shut out for the second straight game, dropping their interleague series opener to the Yankees 3-0 and losing Bryce Harper to a potential left foot injury in the process.

Harper reached base four times despite failing to record a hit, but he never actually made it to first base in his final plate appearance after taking an eighth-inning pitch from reliever Dellin Betances off the front of his left foot. Harper, who had been in pain earlier after getting hit by CC Sabathia in the right elbow, tried to make his way down the line but gave up after about 25 feet. He turned around and retreated to the dugout before a trainer could even emerge to check on him.

Murphy, meanwhile, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in his season debut, looking rusty eight months removed from microfracture surgery on his right knee.

Thus did the Nationals lineup look meek again, following up Sunday’s shutout at the hands of the Giants with another shutout to extend their overall scoreless streak to 19 innings.

The Nats managed four hits (all singles) along with three walks and a hit batter in 5 2/3 innings against Sabathia, who may not have the stuff he displayed a decade ago but has developed into a savvy left-hander who still knows how to get hitters out.

There were a few well-struck balls that went for naught, most notably Anthony Rendon’s drive to the base of the wall in left-center in the top of the first and his smoked line drive to shortstop in the top of the fifth. But nothing hit well enough or placed well enough to produce a run.

Roark-Delivers-Gray-Sidebar.jpgThat left Tanner Roark with precious little room for error, and though the right-hander pitched effectively for the most part, he was done in by a couple of errors to Didi Gregorius.

The first was a 1-1 curveball over the plate in the bottom of the second, which Gregorius crushed to right-center for a solo homer. The second was a 3-2 fastball in the bottom of the sixth, which Gregorius turned on and sent flying down the right field line for his second solo homer of the evening.

Roark was otherwise effective against the more-feared portion of the Yankees lineup. The 2-3-4 trio of Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and Giancarlo Stanton was a combined 0-for-8 with four strikeouts against the Nationals starter.

Roark also was helped some by his defense, especially Michael A. Taylor, who made a terrific catch of Neil Walker’s drive to deep right-center to end the fourth, his left knee slamming into the concrete base of the wall at the end of the play. Taylor remained on the ground for a few seconds as the visitors’ dugout held its collective breath, but he got back to his feet and jogged back in, apparently no worse for wear.

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