When Bryce Harper clutched at his left knee after slipping on first base, the stadium went silent and Dusty Baker feared the worst.
Less than a year after watching catcher Wilson Ramos tear the ACL in his right knee on a noncontact play after a rain delay, Baker just hoped it wasn't that bad. But the uncertainty over Harper's injury overshadowed the Washington Nationals' 3-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night.
Baker said Harper hyperextended the knee and was scheduled to have an MRI.
"The same reaction everybody had — silence goes over the crowd," Baker said. "You're just thinking, 'Please, Lord, don't let it be serious.'"
Baker went so far as to ask for prayers from baseball fans for the health of one of the sport's top players and a potential NL MVP candidate. Harper, the 2015 MVP who is hitting .326 with 29 home runs and 87 RBIs as the most fearsome hitter in the league this season, was not made available to speak to reporters after the game but could be seen walking with a limp.
The injury came as it was raining about 20 minutes into the game after a three-hour delay. Harper tried to run out a grounder to the right side and though he avoided colliding with first baseman Ryder Jones or Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija, he slipped on first base, which was still wet.
"It didn't look good," Jones said. "I hope he's all right. It's just one of those freak plays where you kind of thought there would be a collision and there wasn't and that might be part of it, too."
The result of the game meant little for Washington, which leads the NL East by 14 ½ games, or San Francisco, which is out of contention. Baker said the teams were "at the mercy of the schedule" with Major League Baseball in control and the Giants in town for the last time this season.
With Harper out, the Nationals got their offense in the form of RBI doubles from Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Lind, and an RBI single from Daniel Murphy off Samardzjia (7-12).
Right-hander Edwin Jackson (3-2) allowed one earned run on five hits and struck out five in six innings before giving way to Washington's newfound lockdown bullpen trio of Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy wanted to make sure Mark Melancon's first appearance off the disabled list didn't come in a high-leverage situation after the $62 million closer missed more than six weeks with a right forearm strain. He was able to do that, as Melancon allowed one hit and had one strikeout against his most recent team in the eighth inning, his first work since June 27.
"I thought it was a perfect situation, eighth inning there down two," Bochy said. "We're in the ballgame, so he's got some adrenaline going, pitching late in the ballgame. And he did a good job."
Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg will make a minor league rehab start Monday at Class A Potomac.
Strasburg has been on the disabled list since late July with a right elbow nerve impingement. Pitching coach Mike Maddux said that Strasburg is likely to throw about five innings and 75 pitches in his first rehab outing.
Giants: To make room on the roster for Melancon, the INF Miguel Gomez went on the 10-day DL, retroactive to Aug. 9, with right knee inflammation.
Nationals: Strasburg is one of 11 Nationals players currently on the DL, and Baker doesn't want to rush anyone back. Baker said outfielder Taylor doesn't have his timing yet and reliever Shawn Kelley (back) isn't as sharp as trainers would like yet. ... Enny Romero (forearm strain) is playing catch, and Baker said he's hopeful the lefty is back soon.
RHP A.J Cole (1-2, 5.63 ERA) starts the day game of a split-doubleheader for the Nationals against Giants RHP Chris Stratton (0-2, 6.63). Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (12-5, 2.23) had his choice which game to pitch and preferred night, and he'll face San Francisco LHP Matt Moore (3-12, 5.88).
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