Harper energizes Nats, Desmond walks them off

Harper energizes Nats, Desmond walks them off

Harper energizes Nats, Desmond walks them off
WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper had his best game as a member of the Nationals on Wednesday night, but it was Ian Desmond's two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning that gave them a 5-4 win over the D-backs at Nationals Park. The victory snapped Washington's five-game losing streak.

"It's just what we needed at the right time," Desmond said. "It was just a good win. We played well, we battled the whole time, and to finish it off like that, for me personally, it was awesome. But for the team, it was even better."

The Nationals were down, 4-3, when they rallied against closer J.J. Putz. Harper led off the inning with a double, but after Wilson Ramos and Rick Ankiel struck out, Desmond remembered a lesson he learned from former Nationals manager Frank Robinson.

"[Robinson] said, 'You have to watch the pitcher.'" Desmond remembered. "Putz was throwing his splits up in the zone, and his fastball was elevated to both guys ahead of me. I knew if I looked for the heater, I would be able to see the split up and be able to react. I was really locked in, and everything clicked for me."

It clicked all right. Desmond came to the plate, swung at a 1-1 pitch, and hit the ball over the left-field wall for his third home run of the season, ending the game.

"I had a pretty good idea. I barreled it up. I never hit high home runs, so I was little bit worried. Fortunately, I got enough of it," he said.

Harper played a big role in the victory, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and an RBI. Manager Davey Johnson believes Harper's presence brought energy to the lineup on this night.

"What about the kid? He hit some pretty good pitchers," Johnson said. "He didn't get all of them. He got jammed a little bit, but it was just fun seeing it. The joy you get when you see guys do things they know they are capable of doing. Seeing a 19-year-old come along and have nothing but quality at-bats, it's impressive."

Asked if he had done enough to stay in the Major Leagues the rest of the season, Harper said, "I have no clue. We are five games in. I'm trying to take one day at a time. I want to value the time trying to get comfortable up there. I'm trying to take one game at a time, see what pitchers are doing, and whatnot."

It was Harper who helped the Nationals take a 3-2 lead against left-hander Joe Saunders in the fourth inning.

Harper doubled off the wall in center field, scoring Danny Espinosa to tie the score at 2. Ramos followed and hit a scorcher that second baseman Aaron Hill couldn't handle. As the ball went by Hill, Harper scored after his hand forced catcher Miguel Montero to drop the ball at the plate.

"I knew it was going to be close," Harper said. "On that kind of ball, you really have to bust your butt around the corner. I was reading [third base coach] Bo [Porter] the whole time. I was going. I was trying to make something happen at the plate, going hard, and try to make something happen."

Saunders came away impressed by what he saw from Harper.

"He seems like a young kid that plays the game hard," Saunders said about Harper. "I think people see that and people admire that. I think he's going to be a good baseball player."

But the Nationals ended up losing the lead after the sixth. With two outs, Paul Goldschmidt hit a double over the head of right fielder Jayson Werth, which scored Justin Upton to tie the score at 3. Ryan Roberts was the next hitter, and he singled to left field, scoring Goldschmidt and putting Arizona ahead.

Washington starter Edwin Jackson lasted six innings and allowed four runs on eight hits in a no-decision.

But it was the Nats' relievers -- Craig Stammen and Henry Rodriguez -- who held the D-Backs in check the rest of the game, allowing the team to make its comeback.

"We are always in it until the last out," Stammen said.

And Harper played a role in the victory. For the season, he is now 5-for-13 (.385) with two RBIs.

"He showed that he could put together some good ABs," Stammen said. "He is probably the reason we stayed in the game tonight. He runs on and off the field the way you are supposed to. He runs down to first hard. That's just old-school baseball. He gets stuff in the media about being brash, but he plays hard, and backs it up on the field."

The Nationals remain in first place with a 15-9 record.

"We are in first place, playing good baseball. ... We are really playing our hearts out," Desmond said. "We are grinding at-bats, winning ballgames. I don't think anybody is concerned about how many runs we are scoring per game or anything like that. We just want to keep on getting Ws."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.