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Harper hits first home run in Nationals' victory

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Craig Stouffer
Ankle injury to Leon mars win over Padres

Bryce Harper rounded the bases after his first major league home run in a flash. The trip lasted about as long as Sandy Leon's big league debut.

The Nationals' budding superstar became the youngest player to hit a home run since 1998 in the third inning of Washington's 8-5 win over the San Diego Padres.

With two outs on a 2-1 pitch from Tim Stauffer, Harper pounded the ball over the deepest part of the center-field wall into a grassy area left of the 402-foot mark, giving the Nationals (22-13) a 4-1 lead. He sprinted around the bases and then answered the pleas from the announced crowd of 19,434 at Nationals Park for a curtain call, pointing at the third- and first-base stands.

But the celebration for Harper was barely over when it was muted altogether by yet another nasty injury. Leon's first major league appearance came to an end with a sprained right ankle in a collision at the plate with San Diego third baseman Chase Headley.

Scoring from second on a single by Orlando Hudson, Headley clobbered Leon at the plate, awkwardly bending the rookie catcher's right ankle. Leon, who was called up after fellow catcher Wilson Ramos tore his ACL two days earlier, got up, limped two steps and then crumpled to the ground. He was helped off the field.

Harper's only hit during a 1-for-4 night capped off an inning that began with consecutive singles by Ian Desmond (3-for-5, two runs, two RBI), Roger Bernadina and Ryan Zimmerman. Desmond scored on Zimmerman's grounder to left field, and Bernadina raced home from third when Padres catcher Nick Hundley tried to pick him off at third. Hundley's throw skipped off Headley's glove, the third baseman's second error of the night.

After Headley singled to score Jesus Guzman in the fifth inning, Desmond's double off the top of the left-field wall in the sixth scored Bernadina and Rick Ankiel to put Washington back in front 6-5. Chad Tracy and Xavier Nady each added insurance solo homers in the eighth inning.

Headley picked up his first error when his routine throw to first bounced past Yonder Alonso, enabling Desmond to reach second in the first inning. Desmond later scored on Adam LaRoche's ground ball to second.

San Diego (12-24) tied the game in the second inning when Harper made his second blunder in right field in as many nights. Chasing Hudson's deep shot on the run, Harper was in time to make the catch, but the ball hit off the heel of his glove. Alonso, who opened the inning with a double, scored from second.

On Sunday in Cincinnati, Harper lost a two-out fly ball in the twilight at Great American Ballpark, allowing the Reds to score a pair of runs.

Craig Stammen (3-0) and Tyler Clippard combined for three hitless innings in relief of Ross Detwiler. In the ninth, Sean Burnett coaxed a 1-2-3 double play out of Jesus Guzman after embattled Nationals closer Henry Rodriguez walked the bases loaded.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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