The Washington Nationals arrived this week. From late Tuesday night, when Bryce Harper’s first walk-off hit landed in left field to beat the Mets in 12 innings, until Sunday afternoon, when Washington won, 4-3, to finish a three-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park, every part of a fast-rising first-place franchise was on display. After 111 years as — almost always — a baseball afterthought, this Washington team, with the second-best record in the majors and a charismatic cast, has caught the whole sport’s eye.
Harper provided the bookend moments. Held out of the starting lineup Sunday, the 19-year-old rookie still managed to score the winning run. After a pinch-hit walk in the ninth, he dashed around the bases — catch me if you can — on a hit-and-run liner down the right field line by Roger Bernadina. As the rattled Red Sox slightly bobbled a relay throw, Harper slid home and slapped home plate with his hand. The kid may be the symbol, but he has simply drawn a spotlight to everything about the team, from Tyler Clippard’s three straight saves at Fenway to the dominance of a Nats rotation that stifled the Red Sox.