- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 4, 2015

First pitch came before noon Saturday at Nationals Park, a rare morning game on the Fourth of July, but the Washington Nationals didn’t seem to mind. Michael A. Taylor and Bryce Harper homered in the first inning, Tyler Moore drove in four runs and Washington cruised past the San Francisco Giants, 9-3.

The lone cause for concern came in the fourth, when starter Stephen Strasburg trudged off the mound with an apparent injury. He grimaced after throwing the 56th pitch of his third start since returning from the disabled list. We’ll know more about the nature and severity of the injury later this afternoon.

THE RUNDOWN: The Nationals began the Fourth of July with… well… fireworks. It started with Madison Bumgarner’s first pitch, which Taylor deposited in the left-field seats. A double by Yunel Escobar off the 402-foot mark in center field followed. Then Harper hit a two-run homer to give Washington a 3-0 lead after only three batters. All was going according to plan until Strasburg left the game with an apparent injury. But even that was just a road bump for the Nationals on this afternoon. Tanner Roark took over and was solid for four innings. The lead ballooned to 9-2. And that was all she wrote.

THE HIGHLIGHT: Harper celebrated the Fourth of July with a unique American-themed bat. Or maybe it was a sticker on his bat. Not sure exactly. But whatever it was, Harper put it to good use in the first inning, crushing a two-run home run to the Nationals’ bullpen in right field. It was a low, line-drive shot, his 25th homer of the year. And with it, Harper became just the seventh player in history to have 25 home runs or more at the season’s midway point, joining a list that includes Johnny Bench, Eddie Mathews and Joe DiMaggio, among others.

STAR OF THE GAME: With Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth on the disabled list, Moore has gotten consistent at-bats for several weeks in a row, something of a rare occurrence in his major-league career. And with those at-bats has come steady improvement. The dividends were on display Saturday, when Moore hit back-to-back doubles in the fourth and sixth innings to drive in three runs. He brought a fourth run home with a single in the seventh. It was his first three-hit game of the season.

THE TAKEAWAY: What a tough season Strasburg is having. He pitched through injuries for two months, then spent three weeks on the disabled list, and then finally seemed to have put the maladies behind him. He was pretty good in his first two starts off the DL, and rolling again Saturday until the injury bug bit. The concern, obviously, is whether this malady, which appeared to be on Strasburg’s left side, is related to the others. It could be the latest proof of a widespread mechanical issue. Or it could be nothing. It’s impossible to say right now. What I can say is this: Good job by Matt Williams to get him out of the game. Saturday marked the midway point of the season. No reason to push through an injury at this point.

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