Harper hits 20th HR, tries surprise bunt, Nats lose to Yanks
NEW YORK (AP) — Bryce Harper did plenty in his first game at Yankee Stadium. He hit his 20th home run, hustled for a double and hung in tough during a 10-pitch at-bat against Masahiro Tanaka.
It was what the Washington slugger did his other time up that caused so much commotion.
Harper led off the seventh inning of a tie game by trying to bunt with two strikes, fouling off the pitch for strike three Tuesday night in the Nationals’ 6-1 loss to the New York Yankees.
“I’ve done it before. I’ve bunted with two strikes,” he said. “I went with my gut and it didn’t work out.”
Harper said it was sound strategy, trying to get on base during a tight duel between Tanaka and Max Scherzer. The All-Star said he got a good 1-2 pitch to bunt, just that he didn’t get the job done.
Manager Matt Williams didn’t seem convinced. Asked what he thought about Harper’s idea, he answered: “We’ll save that one for another day.”
A two-out throwing error by shortstop Ian Desmond in the seventh broke the tie. Washington has lost three in a row and nine of 11.
Tanaka outpitched Scherzer, Stephen Drew hit two solo home runs and New York beat the Nationals for its seventh straight victory. This was Washington’s first visit to Yankee Stadium since 2009.
Tanaka (4-1) gave up one run and five hits in seven innings, walking none and striking out six. No one on the Nationals had ever batted against him and it showed with several timid, late swings.
Tanaka made his second start since wrist and forearm ailments put him on the disabled list. No ill effects, apparently.
Scherzer (6-5) kept pace with Tanaka until the seventh.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Alex Rodriguez hit a hard grounder in the hole and Desmond made a dive to stop it. Desmond threw from one knee, trying to get a forceout at third, but the toss hit runner Ramon Flores as he neared the bag.
The ball caromed into the dugout for a run on the fielder’s choice.
“I thought it’s an outstanding baserunning play,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Reliever Matt Thornton gave up a two-run single to Brian McCann and an RBI single to Carlos Beltran as the Yankees broke away.
“We’re just not getting a break,” Scherzer said.
Drew began the day batting .168. His homer in the third marked his 1,000th career hit, and he homered again in the eighth. He has four multihomer games lifetime, and also had one Friday night.
Harper homered to center field in the fourth. The shot landed near Monument Park — before batting practice, he toured the area, checking out the plaques and tributes to Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and other Yankees greats.
Harper had swung at the ballpark once before, during a pre-draft showcase when he was a teen.
Nationals: CF Denard Span was a late scratch because of back spasms. He exited early Sunday, tried to get loose before this game and was pulled from the lineup. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (neck tightness) threw a bullpen session earlier in the day. If he’s OK, he’ll pitch live batting practice later this week in Milwaukee. ... RHP Doug Fister (forearm tightness) will next throw in a rehab game for Double-A Harrisburg as he builds up his pitch count.
Maryland football coach Randy Edsall got a look around Yankee Stadium, and marveled at the team’s tradition. “Through all the years, they had a philosophy and stuck to it,” he said. “That’s hard to do in sports these days.” The Terps, like many other college teams, have worn some outlandish uniforms in recent times. “I don’t see the Yankees doing that,” he said, laughing. “The pinstripes, no names on the backs, that’s their way.”
Hours before the game, the Nationals picked the son of former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on the second day of the major league draft. Iona College RHP Mariano Rivera III was taken in the fourth round. He was 5-7 with a 2.65 ERA and a team-record 113 strikeouts with 27 walks in 85 innings this year. The Yankees drafted him in the 29th round last year, but he chose to return for his junior season. “I know there’s a proud papa, for sure,” Williams said.
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez is 1-5 with a 7.30 ERA in seven career starts vs. the Yankees. He’ll pitch Wednesday against Nathan Eovaldi — they matched up May 19 in Washington and both were hit hard.
Yankees: Eovaldi (5-1, 4.16) is 0-4 in 11 career interleague starts. Harper and Desmond homered off him last month when the right-hander gave up five runs in 4 1-3 innings.