Ian Desmond then singled, and Span followed with another hit. With two outs, starting pitcher Taylor Jordan singled softly to right. Desmond rounded third base, and coach Trent Jewett waved him home. Stanton fired a dart to catcher Jeff Mathis, whose left foot blocked Desmond’s slide into the plate. If Desmond had been held, Harper would have batted with the bases loaded. Johnson, however, was undeterred.
“We don’t have many opportunities to do that, so any time we get a guy who has a chance to score, I don’t care if he’s thrown out,” he said. “We’re going to try to score.”
Despite some hiccups, Johnson said players told him they were pleased with the new lineup.
“I loved it,” said Harper, who had never before hit leadoff in the majors. “I really did. I thought just getting in there and getting the ABs that I did . . . I got six ABs today. That’s awesome. That’s all I can say. I liked doing it. I did it in high school. So that’s great. If he left me there, I’d be absolutely comfortable.”
Jordan, in his fourth and possibly final start as an injury replacement for Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren, threw six innings for the first time since his call-up. The rookie allowed eight hits, many of them soft singles. His most glaring mistake was a two-run homer to Derek Dietrich in the fourth inning, only the second homer he has allowed in 112 innings across the minors and majors.
Although the all-star break is an arbitrary mark of the season — the midpoint of the 162-game season was two weeks ago — it’s a chance for the Nationals to rest. Harper will participate in Monday’s Home Run Derby and start in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, with teammate Jordan Zimmermann in attendance but not playing because of a neck injury. The rest of the team will head home or take a short vacation. They will all return to Washington by Friday to resume their quest for a playoff berth, hoping to erase months of self-inflicted damage.
“We still got a lot of work to do,” Span said.