Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper, left, steals second base as the baseball gets away from Atlanta Braves infielder Andrelton Simmons, right, during the first inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game on Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Viera, Fla. A throwing error was charged to Braves catcher Matt Pagnozzi and it led to a run scored by Nationals' Denard Span. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Sunday, March 24, 2013 5:40 pm
Harper, Espinosa lead Nationals over Braves 9-3
The Associated Press
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. He extended his streak of consecutive outs to 27 before Andrelton Simmons singled leading off the fourth.
Zimmermann threw more changeups than he had previously.
"It means I'm close," he said. "To get 27 in a row means I'm doing something right. I feel good. I'm ready to go. I can't wait for the season."
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.
NOTES: RHP Chris Young, with the Nationals on a minor league contract, could opt out after pitching Monday if he is not added to the major league roster. ... Washington RHP Henry Rodriguez was scratched from his scheduled appearance Sunday due to soreness in his elbow. "I don't think it's anything major," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "I don't even know if he's on any kind of anti-inflammatory. ... The Nationals placed RHP Christian Garcia on the 15-day DL retroactive to Friday with a right forearm tendon injury and also sent INF Carlos Rivero outright to Triple-A Syracuse... The Braves re-assigned LHP Sean Gilmartin and RHP Wirfin Obispo to minor league camp. ... The Braves have a rule during spring training that all pitchers must stay on the bench and watch at least part of the game. Veterans such as Tim Hudson must watch three innings, while pitchers with no major league time have to stay six. Gilmartin routinely stayed for the entire game, prompting Gonzalez to ask him why. "What do you want me to do, go to the mall?' Gilmartin told Gonzalez.