WASHINGTON – Bryce Harper went 0-for-3 in the Nationals’ 5-1 loss Tuesday night to the Diamondbacks with a strikeout and a pair of ground outs, but it was what he did in the seventh inning that had the crowd buzzing and players talking afterward.
The Diamondbacks were leading the Nationals 2-0 when the Snakes loaded the bases against Jordan Zimmermann with one out. Ryan Mattheus entered the game and hit second baseman Aaron Hill to force in Arizona’s third run.
Justin Upton then hit a fly ball to Harper in left about 10 feet in front of the warning track. Harper unleashed a throw to the plate on the fly to catcher Wilson Ramos, who caught the ball slightly to the first base side of the bag but was unable to get the tag down on John McDonald in time, according to home plate umpire Jeff Nelson.
Replays, however, showed McDonald was out at the plate.
“I thought I had a shot,” Harper said. “I reared back and gave it my all. That’s what I try to do, make plays like that and throw guys out.”
Harper’s laser throw was the highlight of the evening for the Nationals, who lost for the fifth straight time as the offense once again struggled to score runs for a starting pitcher. The throw, however, was the talk of both clubhouses.
“Obviously, it was an electric throw,” said Upton. “I wasn’t expecting it to be that close.”
Upton can certainly relate to Harper, having also been a 19-year-old when he made his Major League debut.
“It’s fun to watch,” Upton said. “It’s fun to see him finally get called up with all the hype and go out and enjoy the game. He looks like he is having fun out there and that’s what it’s all about.”
“I didn’t see it,” said McDonald of the play at the plate. “He’s got a really strong arm and we’re made aware of all the arms in the outfield and we have to try and score in that situation.
“It was a good throw. At that point it put us up 4-0 so it’s a big run in the ballgame and obviously we were really happy about that.”
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson has a Gold Glove outfielder in Gerardo Parra, who is known for his strong arm. Gibson likened Harper’s throw to what he’s used to seeing from Parra.
“Pretty impressive, yeah,” Gibson said. “It kind of surprised me. We knew he had a solid arm but that was a pretty impressive throw.”
Zimmermann also was impressed with Harper’s throw to the plate, and that’s not an easy thing to do on this team, because the Nationals have some of the best outfield arms in the game.
“You know (Rick) Ankiel probably has the best arm in baseball and he’s very, very accurate,” Zimmermann said.
“I really didn’t know Bryce had that good of an arm before I saw that one throw tonight. He did a great job out there and by the looks of the replays, it was a pretty close play and it could have gone either way.”
“He’s got an unbelievable arm,” said Nats first baseman Adam LaRoche.
“He’s showed it a couple of times. I mean, another throw to the plate that I don’t think anybody thought was going to be close and he made it a bang-bang play. Quick release and a strong arm, it’s a pretty good combination.”