Harper returns a hero


By JOSEPH WHITE

AP Sports Writer

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper needed only two pitches to earn himself a curtain call.

Back from the disabled list, the Washington Nationals sparkplug launched a fastball from Yovani Gallardo into the visitors’ bullpen for an opposite-field homer Monday night in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Harper raised his right arm and pointed to the fans as he finished his familiar sprint around the bases. After lots of high-fives in the dugout, he returned to the top of the steps and gave a thumbs-up to answer the cheers.

Batting third and playing left field, Harper got the benefit of the doubt on the first pitch from Gallardo, holding up just enough for a check-swing to be called a ball.

There was no doubt about the second pitch. The ball cleared the left-field fence by a few feet, a solo shot for Harper’s 13th homer of the season and 24th RBI.

“I felt like I was back on opening day,” said Harper, who homered in his first two at-bats of the season. “I was trying to get something I could drive. I got a pitch I could handle a little bit and put it where I wanted to.”

Harper finished 1 for 4 with a walk in the Nationals’ 10-5 victory. He slid hard into second base on a double play in the sixth inning, showing no lingering problems with his knee.

The 20-year-old slugger was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list a few hours before the game, following his recovery from a knee injury that stemmed from a collision with the Dodger Stadium fence. He had been gone so long that manager Davey Johnson wanted to be sure it wasn’t a mirage when he saw Harper in the clubhouse.

“I went in there and said, ‘Is that really you? Are you OK? Are you ready to go?’” Johnson said. “He shook my hand and said, ‘I’m ready.’ It seemed like I hadn’t seen him in half a year. It seems that long.”

Harper missed 31 games with bursitis, diagnosed after he reinjured his left knee several times after he kept trying to play for two weeks following the mishap in Los Angeles on May 13. He pronounced himself fit after going 4 for 11 with a double, a triple and a home run during a four-game rehab assignment last week with Class-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.

“A little swelling, but not much,” Harper said. “Nothing to be cautious about. I feel good, and it’s to the point where I want to play.”

Harper said he would wear padding to protect the knee.

The Nationals improved to 26-19 when Harper plays; they are 16-21 when he doesn’t. That adds up to a middling 42-40 mark just past the halfway point for a consensus preseason pick to repeat as NL East champions. He was batting .287 when he went on the DL.

“Not only his bat, but I think the energy he brings, he takes a lot of the focus and he’s a competitor,” Johnson said. “Just to have that 20-year-old energy running around 100 percent, I’m sure he’s still probably going to run into the wall, I’m sure he’s going to dive headfirst. … I don’t want to put a damper on that. That’s who he is, and that’s how he plays the game, and that’s great.”

REDS 8, GIANTS 1

6 INNINGS

CINCINNATI — Todd Frazier homered and drove in four runs, leading Cincinnati out of its offensive slump to a victory over San Francisco in a game shortened to six innings because of rain.

Frazier had an RBI single and a three-run homer off left-hander Mike Kickham (0-3), who has been hit hard in each of his three major league starts.

Bronson Arroyo (7-6) gave up a pair of hits in six innings, including Brandon Belt’s homer.

Rain halted the game after the sixth. The umpires waited 1 hour, 28 minutes before calling it.

MARLINS 4, PADRES 0

MIAMI — Jose Fernandez struck out 10 and allowed only two hits in a career-high eight innings as Miami beat San Diego to match a season high with its third consecutive victory.

Jeff Mathis delivered the big hit for the second game in a row, raising his batting average to .154. He hit a three-run double in the sixth, when the Marlins scored four unearned runs off Jason Marquis (9-4), who issued a career-high seven walks in 6 1-3 innings.

Mathis’ ninth-inning grand slam beat the Padres on Sunday.

The Marlins began the week with the worst record in the majors, but since June 1 they’re 16-10, and they’ve won six of their past seven games. They’ve allowed three runs in the past three games.

San Diego lost for the seventh time in nine games. Padres shortstop Pedro Ciriaco made an errant throw that led to the unearned runs.

Fernandez (5-4) walked one and equaled a career high in strikeouts. Steve Cishek entered with two on and got the final out for his 15th save in 17 chances, completing a three-hitter.

Fernandez improved to 3-1 with an ERA of 1.34 over his past six starts.

BLUE JAYS 8, TIGERS 3TORONTO — R.A. Dickey won again, Jose Reyes and Mark DeRosa homered and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the slumping Detroit Tigers 8-3 for their seventh straight home win.

The Blue Jays delighted a sellout crowd of 45,766 on Canada Day with their 11th victory in 13 games at Rogers Centre.

Coming off his two-hit shutout against Tampa Bay, Dickey (8-8) was sharp and won for the third time in four starts. The knuckleballer allowed two runs and six hits in seven innings, striking out four and walking one.

Reyes hit a leadoff shot in the third against Tigers rookie Jose Alvarez (1-2). For Reyes, it was his third homer of the year and second in two days.

DeRosa added a three-run drive in the fourth off reliever Luke Putkonen.

Prince Fielder and Omar Infante hit solo homers for the Tigers. Detroit lost for the sixth time in seven games.

Infante went 4 for 4 with a two-out homer in the ninth. Tigers star Miguel Cabrera, who came in with an AL-leading .373 batting average, went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

YANKEES 10, TWINS 4

MINNEAPOLIS — Robinson Cano homered twice and Andy Pettitte broke Whitey Ford’s club record for career strikeouts to help New York snap a five-game skid with a victory over Minnesota.

Zoilo Almonte had three hits and two RBIs as the slumbering Yankees offense woke up with seven runs in the last two innings to reach double digits for the first time since May 10.

Struggling reliever Jared Burton (1-6) gave up three runs and three hits while getting only one out for the Twins, who coughed up another eighth-inning lead. Ryan Doumit had two hits and two RBIs.

Cano also had a double, a walk and three RBIs for the Yankees, who totaled 13 runs during their losing streak.

Pettitte allowed four runs in five innings. Joba Chamberlain (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.

RAYS 12, ASTROS 0

HOUSTON — Matt Moore allowed two hits in seven innings for his 11th win and Ryan Roberts homered twice to lead Tampa Bay over Houston.

Moore (11-3) won his third straight decision and Cesar Ramos pitched two perfect innings to complete the two-hitter and help the Rays win their third in a row.

Roberts made it 3-0 with a two-run homer in the third off Dallas Keuchel (4-5) and tacked on another run with a solo shot in the eighth inning.

Sean Rodriguez had a career-high four hits — two doubles — with three RBIs, and three other Rays added three hits apiece on a night when they tied a season high for runs and finished with 17 hits.

Chris Carter and Jake Elmore got Houston’s only hits with singles as the last-place Astros dropped their fourth in a row.

Moore struck out nine and walked three to tie his win total from last season.

Tampa Bay slugger Evan Longoria was out of the lineup for the third straight game with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, but the Rays don’t plan on placing him on the disabled list.

 

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