The beat goes on (Harper goes yard)

The first ball the Nationals hit out of the infield today came off the bat of their pitcher, Gio Gonzalez.

Gonzalez’s line shot up the middle in the third inning also got the Nats in the hit column for the first time today.

That’s where this offense is at right now.

The Nationals’ 1-8 hitters are 0-for-9 with a walk and five strikeouts in the first three innings this afternoon. Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner has looked really sharp - especially in the first inning when he struck out the side on just 14 pitches - but the Nats haven’t put up much of a fight.

Ian Desmond drew a walk leading off the second inning, then watched as Adam LaRoche struck out swinging, Tyler Moore popped up to short and Danny Espinosa grounded out to end the inning.

After Gonzalez reached with one out in the third, Denard Span was called out on strikes and Bryce Harper flew out to right.

No productive outs, no moving runners into scoring position. The team batting average and on-base percentage continues to fall and the runs continue to be hard to come by.

Luckily for the Nats, this game is still scoreless as we go to the fourth. Gonzalez has bounced back from a shaky opening inning when he allowed a hit and a walk to his first two batters faced, and is through three on 47 pitches.

The left-hander has gotten just one groundball out so far, striking out three and benefiting from some well-struck fly balls that have come down in the Nats’ mitts.

Update: We’re still scoreless mid-way through the fifth inning, meaning the Nationals have now scored in one of the 23 innings they’ve played in this series.

Take out the two runs scored in the first inning of last night’s game, and it’s all goose eggs for the Nats.

The Nats have gotten two runners in scoring position today. Moore left LaRoche stranded at second in the fourth and Span popped up to end the fifth, leaving Kurt Suzuki stuck 180 feet away from home.

Gonzalez continues to match Bumgarner zero for zero, and his curve has looked sharp today. But the lack of offense remains the story for this Nationals team.

Update II: Bryce Harper’s 12th homer of the season couldn’t have come at a much better time.

It was just a solo shot, but given the way Gonzalez is going today and given the way the Nats’ offense has scuffled, that one big fly might loom pretty large.

Harper smacked a 1-2 fastball to the opposite field and it flew over the head of Andres Torres and about three rows into the seats.

That’s why this guy shouldn’t be laying down bunts, much less twice in one game.

The Nats have a 1-0 lead after six, and Harper had another big play to close out the inning, bringing in Hunter Pence’s deep fly to the track in right-center. He made his way into the gap, turned to get an idea of where the fence was and how much room he had to work with, and made a nice leaping grab just short of the wall.

A big play by Harper on both sides of the ball.

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