Sunday, April 29, 2012 1:00 am
Kemp's HR in 10th spoils Harper's strong debut
The Associated Press
Harper hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth and Wilson Ramos added a run-scoring single before Washington's bullpen wasted a 3-1 lead in the bottom half.
Kemp drove a 1-2 pitch off Tom Gorzelanny (1-1) to center field for his majors-leading 11th home run, breaking the Dodgers record for long balls in April set by Gary Sheffield in 2000. Kemp tossed his helmet as he galloped from third to home plate, where he was mobbed by teammates.
Jamey Wright (1-0) pitched a perfect inning for the win.
Harper, the Nationals' much-ballyhooed 19-year-old outfielder and the first overall pick in the 2010 draft, was 1 for 3 in his four plate appearances. In his third at-bat, he doubled to center field over Kemp's head with two out in the seventh after hitting a comebacker in the first and flying out in the fifth.
Washington closer Henry Rodriguez, trying for his sixth save and first since tag-team partner Brad Lidge went on the disabled list on Friday, blew a 3-1 lead in the ninth and threw three wild pitches after the Nats broke a 1-all tie against Dodgers closer Javy Guerra.
Rodriguez gave up a ground-rule double by Juan Uribe, one pitch after a fan ran onto the field and was tackled in left-center by security guards.
A.J. Ellis struck out and James Loney was thrown out at the plate on a grounder to first by pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy. But Rodriguez threw a wild pitch to Dee Gordon on a 1-2 count, allowing the tying run to score, and Gordon reached on a strikeout-wild pitch. Gorzelanny (1-1) relieved Rodriguez, and Gwynn lined out to first with two runners in scoring position.
Because of the Nationals' rainout last Sunday at Miami, Stephen Strasburg didn't get the marquee matchup with NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw that many had hoped for. But the Nationals' ace right-hander still had his hands full keeping up with Chad Billingsley, who matched zeros with him until both teams scored a run in the eighth against the two starters.
Adam LaRoche, whose two-run homer Friday night against Kershaw accounted for all the Washington scoring in a 3-2 loss, put the Nationals ahead 1-0 against Billingsley with a line drive into the lower seats in the right field corner on a 3-1 pitch. It was his third home run in 24 career at-bats against the right-hander.
The Dodgers pulled even after Strasburg hit Jerry Hairston Jr. leading off the bottom half. Loney reached on a fielding error by second baseman Danny Espinosa, and Hairston scored on a one-out single to left field by Ellis. Harper made a strong throw to the plate on the fly, but Ramos couldn't handle it cleanly.
Strasburg allowed one run and five hits over seven innings, struck out nine and walked none in his Dodger Stadium debut.
Billingsley gave up one run and five hits in seven innings with six strikeouts and a walk.
Notes: Strasburg hit two batters, one more than he plunked in 177 innings over his 21 previous big league starts. But he hasn't allowed a home run in his last 10 starts and 63 1-3 innings since LaRoche took him deep on Aug. 15, 2010 while playing for Arizona. ... Strasburg led off the sixth with an opposite-field double to right-center, his first extra-base hit in 35 career at-bats to that point and the first by a Nationals pitcher this season. ... Billingsley has given up five homers in 30 2-3 innings this season. Last year, he had a homerless stretch of 92 innings. ... Billingsley came in 4-0 with a 2.28 ERA in his four previous starts against Washington at Dodger Stadium. ... Strasburg, who was born in San Diego, made his first start in California. ... The youngest player in the 44-year history of the Montreal/Washington franchise was LHP Balor Moore, who was 19 years and 116 days old when he made his big league debut on May 21, 1970. Harper is 79 days older than Moore was.