Harper #ASGWorthy in return to Nats lineup

Harper #ASGWorthy in return to Nats lineup

BALTIMORE -- Bryce Harper made an impact in his return to the Nationals' lineup, with an opposite-field solo home run in the eighth inning of Monday's 6-4 loss to the Orioles. It was Harper's first game since Thursday after he was sidelined this past weekend by a groin injury.

The homer came at the end of a seven-pitch battle with Orioles right-hander Darren O'Day, as Harper also singled and walked on the night to reach base three times in his four at-bats. And he came away feeling no lingering effects from his injury.

"No concerns," Harper said. "In fact, I could've definitely played in Philly, but the training staff and the skipper, of course, didn't think it was a good idea, so we went with that. I had no problem with that, got work in, and did everything I could to stay in the best mindset and shape I could."

Harper's RBI infield single

Harper initially injured himself making a diving catch in the third inning Thursday afternoon, although he remained in the game until the sixth.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Bryce and other #ASGWorthy players

Prior to the game, Nats manager Dusty Baker said he would be watching to make sure Harper was not feeling any lingering effects from the groin injury that sidelined him this past weekend. It has become Baker's policy -- that when a player believes he is ready to return from injury -- to give him an extra day off to be sure. So even though Harper had improved during the weekend and could have played in Sunday's series finale, Baker decided to hold him out one more day.

And Baker was glad he did, considering Harper will be a major piece for the Nationals high-powered offense, which leads the Majors in runs.

This was his 10th homer of the season and Harper leads the Majors in runs and on-base percentage. He improved his batting average to .385 and at the start of the day Monday, he had been worth 2.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

"He looked good, he looked real good," Baker said. "Plus he hit that ball to left field like a right-handed hitter. That shows me that his hip rotation and everything was good. I'm glad I held him out another day. Maybe he'll start rolling again from here."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.