- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - On a night when he broke a record, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper preferred to talk about the pitch that got away.

Harper set a franchise season mark for walks, but Washington stranded nine and dropped a 4-1 decision to Ubaldo Jimenez and the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night in the rain-delayed opener of a series between teams fighting to remain in the playoff race.

With a man on in a 2-0 game, Harper had a chance to tie things up in the third inning.

“I missed my pitch. I missed the 1-2 sinker,” he said. “I should have hit it out of the yard. I popped it to second. That’s something that’s on me.

“If I want to hit, then that’s a pitch I have to hit.”

The Nationals remained 6 1-2 games behind the first-place Mets, who lost to Atlanta 6-2, in the NL East. New York’s magic number to clinch the division dropped to six.

Monday’s opener was postponed by rain. The teams are scheduled to play a makeup game Thursday.

Harper got three free passes that upped his season total to 118, passing Adam Dunn’s mark of 116 in 2009.

“I’m trying to get on base and have faith in the guys behind me,” he said.

The Nationals had won seven of eight.

“Three hits, a lot of fly balls,” manager Matt Williams said. “We’ve been coming through a lot lately, but not tonight.”

Michael Taylor had two hits for Washington. Gio Gonzalez (11-8) lasted 4 2-3 innings, allowing four runs, six hits and two walks.

“The innings he had trouble, the ball was up and out of the strike zone,” Williams said.

Gonzalez came in having allowed three earned runs over his last three starts.

Jimenez pitched six gritty innings to earn his 100th career win and added an RBI single.

“It seems like yesterday that I got to the big leagues and I already have eight years and 100 wins, so it’s been a really enjoyable moment,” Jimenez said.

The 31-year-old Jimenez (12-9) won his third straight decision for Baltimore, which started the night trailing three teams and were six games back for the AL’s second wild card.

Jimenez walked five, but allowed an unearned run and three hits while striking out five.

Darren O’Day pitched the ninth for his fourth save.

Chris Davis and Steve Pearce had RBI doubles for Baltimore.

Jimenez lined a two-out single to center to make it 1-0, and J.J. Hardy scored on Nolan Reimold’s single.

The Orioles have committed the fewest errors in the majors, but they picked up two in the fourth.

Junior Lake, filling in for Adam Jones in center, dropped a fly ball for a two-base error to start the inning.

Jimenez had a chance to escape unscathed when, with runners on the corners with one out, Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton hit a potential double-play grounder toward second, but Jonathan Schoop bobbled it. Everyone was safe and Cliff Robinson scored to pull Washington to 2-1.

The Orioles bumped it to 4-1 in the fifth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: An MRI revealed INF Danny Espinosa has a small tear in his right hamstring, Williams said. “We’ll have to be cautious with him for sure,” said Williams, who didn’t have a timetable regarding Espinosa’s availability. … RHP Jordan Zimmermann could have been moved ahead of RHP Tanner Roark to pitch Thursday’s makeup game with Baltimore on normal rest, but he has a stiff neck and will pitch Friday as planned.

UP NEXT:

Baltimore RHP Chris Tillman (9-11, 5.19) looks for his first win since Aug. 17 when he opposes Max Scherzer (12-11, 2.90). Scherzer has allowed two runs over 15 innings in his last two starts.

FISTER FORGES ON

Former starter Doug Fister threw two scoreless innings in relief for Washington, striking out four. In his last five appearances, Fister is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 9 1-3 innings.

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