|10:05 AM PT11:05 AM MT12:05 PM CT1:05 PM ET13:05 ET17:05 GMT1:05 10:05 AM MST12:05 PM EST12:35 PM VEN21:05 UAE12:05 PM CT, August 7, 2018
Nationals Park, Washington, District of Columbia Attendance: 26,965
Harper, Zimmerman HRs send Nats past Braves 8-3 in 1st game
By DAVID GINSBURG
After sputtering for much of the season, the Washington Nationals appear ready to make a serious move in the NL East.
Harper and Ryan Zimmerman hit consecutive homers to spark a four-run fourth inning, and the surging Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 8-3 Tuesday in the opener of a split doubleheader.
Washington has won nine of 12 - outscoring the opposition 84-38 - to move four games over .500 (58-54) for the first time since June 29. The Nationals are chasing first-place Philadelphia and Atlanta in the NL East.
"We've been playing really well," manager Dave Martinez said. "We're swinging the bats a lot better. We starting to drive in runs not only just by hitting home runs, but by (using) the whole field and getting big hits."
Zimmerman went 3 for 5 and Harper had two hits and two RBIs. In his last eight games, Harper is 13 for 28 with two homers and eight RBIs.
Rookie right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (1-1) allowed one run and three hits in five innings to earn his first major victory. He also got his first big league hit and scored a run.
Maybe this streaky play is contagious. Greg Holland, who went 0-2 with a 7.29 ERA with St. Louis, struck out the side during a scoreless seventh inning in his Nationals debut.
Holland, who starred for Kansas City in the 2014 World Series, was signed Tuesday morning as a free agent.
Harper led off the fourth with his 27th home run, and Zimmerman followed a drive far over the center-field wall for a 2-1 lead. After Rodriguez doubled with two outs, Trea Turner and Juan Soto hit RBI singles.
All the damage came against 20-year-old Kolby Allard (1-1), recalled from the minors to be the 26th man in the doubleheader. Starter Max Fried was struck in the lower back by a line drive in the second inning and removed with a left groin strain.
"It was a freak thing. I saw the ball come at me and I just tried to make a quick movement," Fried said. "It's just unfortunate and frustrating."
Not what the Braves needed, especially with Scherzer - Washington's ace - poised to pitch the nightcap.
"He was doing fine, I thought," manager Brian Snitker said of Fried. "I didn't want to take him out, not in the second inning. It's really tough."
Washington pulled away with a four-run sixth. After Anthony Rendon delivered a sacrifice fly, Harper singled in a run and Zimmerman hit a two-run double.
The game was the makeup of a rainout on July 21.
The weirdest play of the game came in the third inning, when Soto hit a liner to center with Turner on first base. Center fielder Ender Inciarte leaped at the wall, and the ball appeared to bounce from his glove into the mitt of left fielder Adam Duvall. Turner scampered back to first. After a replay, it was determined that Inciarte trapped the ball against the wall and Soto was called out for passing Turner on the basepath.
Braves: Fried's injury occurred on the final play of the second inning. He was replaced by pinch-hitter Kevin Gausman, a pitcher whose career batting average is .000. Gausman was hit by a pitch.
Braves: Atlanta planned to start Sean Newcomb (10-5, 3.23 ERA) in the second game.
Nationals: Scherzer (15-5, 2.33 ERA) was seeking to win his sixth straight start.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbasebal l and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Updated August 7, 2018