(Patrick McDermott/GETTY IMAGES)

“It’s all right,” Harper said. “Once I get going and stuff, that’s when it feels good. When I sit down, it’s going to feel bad. Once I get going and get warmed up, I’m fine.”

In his first at-bat Saturday afternoon, Harper fouled a bunt flush off the round bone that protrudes from the inside of his left ankle. Harper hobbled around, keeling over every few steps, but stayed in the game to finish the at-bat and play one inning of defense in center field before Johnson yanked him.

“Pain doesn’t really get to me much,” Harper said. “If he left me in there, I could have played, definitely. It takes a lot to take me out of the game.”

In the eighth inning Saturday night, Johnson put Harper back in. “I didn’t ask him,” Johnson said. “I just said, ‘Go get loose.’ ”

Harper pinch hit with two outs and the bases empty. Afterward, Harper would limp around the clubhouse, but he felt almost nothing in his ankle as he stepped into the box. “Not really,” Harper said. “I think the crowd really helped with that.”

Harper rolled an easy, opposite-field single through the left side. He then stole second and scored when Danny Espinosa lined a single into right field, proving he can play Sunday.

Johnson was not so optimistic about all-star shortstop Ian Desmond, who left the night game in the eighth after feeling tightness in his bothersome left oblique. The chances of Desmond playing Saturday are, “iffy,” Johnson said.

In Harper’s absence, Roger Bernadina went 5 for 7 and drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning of Game 2. “It’s definitely big,” Bernadina said. “Things turned out well for me.”

The Nationals showed faith in Bernadina when they designated Rick Ankiel, another left-handed hitting outfielder, for assignment. Bernadina is 13 for his last 27, and for the year he’s now batting .278/.358/.391.

“Just focusing on using the whole field,” Bernadina said. “I know my ability. I keep working. They gave me a chance. I’ll do whatever I can to help the ballclub.”