Nats overcome Harper's injury to beat Giants

Nats overcome Harper's injury to beat Giants

WASHINGTON -- After thunderstorms washed away Friday night's game, the Nationals and Giants waited out a 3:01 rain delay before they finally began their three-game series late Saturday night at Nationals Park. The Nats used their newest winning formula -- six quality innings from their starter followed by an inning each from a new bullpen trio -- to seal a 3-1 victory early Sunday morning.

But the victory was bittersweet for Washington after slugger Bryce Harper left the game in the first inning with a hyperextended left knee. Harper injured himself trying to beat out a ground ball for an infield single, but his left foot slipped on the first-base bag, his leg buckled and he fell to the ground holding his knee.

"We just ask for prayers that it's not serious," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "We're just urging everybody out there that are Nationals fans and baseball fans to say a prayer for him tonight because he was in obvious pain out there. We're just hoping for the best."

Baker on Harper's injury

The Nationals still came away with the victory thanks to six quality innings from right-hander Edwin Jackson, whose lone blemish was a solo homer to Joe Panik in the first. Jackson was followed by a scoreless inning each from relievers Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle.

Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija threw a season-high 120 pitches to get through six innings where he gave up nine hits and three runs with six strikeouts and a walk.

"For any team, having to play three games in 18 hours is a stretch, so I really wanted to go out there and try to get deep in the game," said Samardzija, referring to the Giants' impending doubleheader Sunday to make up for Friday's rainout.. "They battled and made me throw some pitches so it wasn't as deep as I wanted to go, but we did what we could."

Samardzija strikes out Difo

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Nats pick up a pair in the first: Even after the potentially deflating moment when Harper left the game, the Nationals offense still managed to grab an early lead against Samardzija. Ryan Zimmerman doubled to drive home Wilmer Difo and then Zimmerman scored on a single from Daniel Murphy.

"At the time, you just continue to play the game," Zimmerman said. "We'll see what happens. I don't really think it changes anything at that moment."

Zimmerman's RBI double

Jackson escapes trouble: The Giants began the second inning with back-to-back singles from Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence and threatened to score against Jackson. But Jackson struck out Ryder Jones, forced Samardzija to fly out to center field and induced a grounder from Denard Span to end the inning.

"Today was definitely one of those 'dig deep and see what you're made of' days," Jackson said. "I was fortunate enough to come out with good results and also help out the bullpen at the same time with a solid six innings. It's one of those days when you really don't have your best stuff."

Jackson strikes out Sandoval

"Jackson somehow has our number," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "Pitching for San Diego last year, he pitched well against us. He's got good stuff and we had a hard time getting going after the second inning. We were just a little flat there. You'd think with a couple of days off that our bats would be flying, but he did a pretty good job on us."

HARPER LEAVES THE GAME
The crowd at Nationals Park fell nearly silent as Harper laid on the ground clutching his left knee. He was eventually carried off the field unable to put any weight on his leg.

"Just a freak accident," said Jones, the Giants' first baseman. "... He looked like he was in pretty good pain. You never want that to happen to a player."

Harper injures knee

Harper is scheduled for an MRI on Sunday, but if serious, the injury to Harper could be a huge challenge for the Nationals to overcome. Harper is hitting 326/.419/.614 with 29 home runs and a 1.033 OPS and has been worth 5.0 Wins Above Replacement, the fifth best in baseball, which has made him one of the favorites to win the National League MVP Award.

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With Saturday's victory, Baker tied Lou Piniella and Bochy for 14th on Major League Baseball's all-time managerial wins list with 1,835 wins. Bochy and Baker are tied for the most wins among active managers.

Doolittle seals the Nats' win

WHAT'S NEXT
Giants: Right-hander Chris Stratton will start for the Giants in Game 1 of Sunday's day-night doubleheader against the Nationals at 10:05 a.m. PT. Stratton is 0-2 with a 6.63 ERA in five appearances this season, including two starts. Lefty Matt Moore (3-12, 5.88) starts Game 2 at 4:05 p.m. PT. One of Moore's best starts came against the Nationals on May 29 in San Francisco when he threw seven innings of two-run ball in a 3-0 defeat.

Nationals: The Nationals host the Giants for a split doubleheader Sunday at Nationals Park. A.J. Cole takes the mound for the first game at 1:05 p.m. ET while Max Scherzer takes the mound for the nightcap that begins at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Ben Raby is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Giants on Saturday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.