- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 18, 2015

Jordan Zimmermann was solid over 6 1/3 innings and Bryce Harper hit a towering home run to center field, but the Washington Nationals fell to the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-3. 

The loss ended Washington’s three-game winning streak.

THE RUNDOWN:The Nationals jumped out to another early 1-0 lead Saturday, just like they have in each of their past three games, before Ian Desmond’s fielding woes made another unwelcome appearance. With one out in the third inning, he bobbled a grounder off the bat of pitcher Aaron Harang and couldn’t recover in time to throw him out, a close play at first base that was decided by a video review. It was Desmond’s eighth error in 12 games. Then, three batters later, he bobbled the turn on what would have been an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play. It was not ruled an error because the scorebook does not assume double plays, but another unearned runner scored. The Nationals tied the game in the fourth on a monstrous home run from Bryce Harper (more on that later) and traded runs with Philadelphia in the fifth. But the Phillies scored again in the seventh and ninth, pulling away to seal a loss for Washington.

THE HIGHLIGHT: On Friday night, Harper hit a home run to deep center field. OK, I thought, that was pretty impressive. Then Harper stepped to the plate in the fourth inning Saturday afternoon and hit another ball toward center. This one landed in the same part of the ballpark, but farther, bouncing off the top of a green wall more than 450 feet away. Harper paused for a few steps to admire it as it left the bat. OK, I thought, now that one was definitely impressive. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the longest homer of his major league career.

STAR OF THE GAME: I’ll give Harper the rare 2-for-2 day in The Rundown, in large part because he went 2-for-3 at the plate. His approach has been fantastic lately. He said he’s been talking with manager Matt Williams about trying to make smooth, quick, clean contact instead of pummeling a ball 900 feet. The result? He’s still pummeling balls 900 feet, but he’s also drawing a lot of walks and notching a fair number of clean singles, including on in the third inning Saturday. He’s been exactly what the Nationals need in the middle of their order this season.

THE TAKEAWAY: This was one of the losses the Nationals can live with. The lineup missed a handful of opportunities with runners in scoring position, but recorded nine hits. Zimmermann was solid, allowing four hits and two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings, but he also uncharacteristically walked four batters. It’s the second straight game in which he’s struggled with his command. The most concerning aspect of the loss was Desmond’s performance in the field. He has a history of error-laden Aprils, but this one is now his worst. There’s no other way to put it: He has the fielding equivalent of the yips. I’m sure he’ll work through it, but until he does, there’s no such thing as a routine play at shortstop for the Nationals. And that’s a dangerous thing.


SEE ALSO: Craig Stammen remains resolute after likely season-ending injury


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