Harper, Nationals top Braves in rain-shortened game

Washington 9, Atlanta 3

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Washington's Bryce Harper (left) steals second base as the ball gets away from Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons. Harper returned to action after suffering a thumb injury.  EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Washington's Bryce Harper (left) steals second base as the ball gets away from Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons. Harper returned to action after suffering a thumb injury.

VIERA, Fla. — Bryce Harper ditched the pad he had planned to wear on his swollen left thumb.

After missing a game because of the injury, Harper singled twice, doubled and stole two bases Sunday in the Washington Nationals’ rain-shortened 9-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.

Harper got hurt when he was jammed with a pitch Friday. He didn’t feel comfortable swinging with the pad.

“I can’t wear it,” he said. “I’ll wear it during BP and in the on-deck circle, but going to the plate … I don’t like the feeling.”

He singled in the first and third innings and doubled in the fifth, all against Kris Medlen.

“I didn’t really feel it,” Harper said. “It’s a case of squaring a ball up, and getting jammed. If you don’t get jammed, you’re not going to feel it and if you do, it’s going to look like a balloon.”

In a game called after seven innings because of bad weather, Danny Espinosa went 3 for 3 with a three-run homer.

There were 20 mph winds at the start and tornado warnings in the surrounding area later in the afternoon. Once the rain started, groundskeepers were able to get home plate and the pitching mound covered, but were not able to get the tarp on the infield, which had puddles.

“I felt like I was on a ship out there,” Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann said. “It’s definitely not very fun pitching in this weather.”

Zimmermann allowed three runs – one earned – and six hits in six innings with four strikeouts. He had retired 18 consecutive batters after giving up a leadoff single in his previous start and didn’t allow a hit through three innings against the Braves.

The day was so windy that Medlen wondered whether he would be blown over as he started his windup. Medlen gave up six runs and eight hits in five innings.

“I made some pretty good pitches, some pretty bad pitches,” Medlen said. “You go up in the middle of your delivery and the first thing in the back of your head is: Am I going to fall over?”

He thought Espinosa’s home run was aided by the wind.

“I’m trying to go fastball in, and I’m falling over with my arm dragging,” Medlen said. “It was a terrible pitch, and he absolutely crushed it.”

Adam LaRoche had two hits and three RBIs for Washington, which had 12 hits. Dan Uggla had an RBI single for the Braves.


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