WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper hit a two-run homer and scored twice, Dan Haren had his best start of the young season Saturday and the Washington Nationals beat the Cincinnati Reds 6-3.
Denard Span and Jayson Werth each had two hits for Washington, which has won the first three games of the four-game set. Harper’s two RBIs gave him 18, a Nationals record for April.
Haren (2-3) didn’t quite match Jordan Zimmermann’s one-hitter and Gio Gonzalez’s impressive eight innings of one-hit ball the previous two games, but he was sharp enough. Haren allowed two runs and six hits over six innings, lowering his ERA from 7.36 to 6.29.
Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth for his seventh save.
Brandon Phillips had three singles and Shin-Soo Choo homered for Cincinnati, which has lost four of five.
Reds starter Mike Leake (1-1) gave up four runs, three earned, in three innings.
Trailing 6-2 in the seventh, the Reds got a two-out RBI single from pinch-hitter Todd Frazier off Tyler Clippard to make it 6-3. Choo then walked to load the bases and Jack Cozart hit a laser to left-center, but Span’s running catch ended the threat.
The Nationals scored twice in the second. Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon drew one-out walks. Kurt Suzuki popped out, but Haren blooped a single into short right field scoring Desmond. Rendon went to third and scored when Span singled.
Harper and Werth opened the third with singles and, after Adam LaRoche flied out, Desmond singled, scoring Harper. Leake fanned Rendon, but Suzuki hit a grounder toward the hole between third and shortstop. Third baseman Jack Hannahan made a diving stop, but threw wide to second and Werth scored as the ball rolled into right field.
The Reds ended a 17-inning scoring drought in the fourth when Joey Votto doubled and Phillips singled him home.
Harper put the Nationals ahead 6-1 in the fourth, homering into the Washington bullpen on a 1-2 pitch off Alfredo Simon with Danny Espinosa on first. It was Harper’s ninth of the season.
Choo homered to lead off the sixth and Cozart singled. Span thwarted the rally when he raced to the wall in left-center and made a jumping catch to take an extra-base hit away from Votto.
NOTES: Reds LF Chris Heisey left the game in the third inning with a strained right hamstring. . Nationals C Wilson Ramos, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring, caught three innings and went 0 for 1 with a walk Friday night in the first game of a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg. Washington manager Davey Johnson said Ramos will travel with the team to Atlanta Sunday. He’s eligible to come off the DL Monday. . Johnson said 3B Ryan Zimmerman, on the DL with a left hamstring strain, will likely begin a rehab assignment Monday and rejoin the team Friday in Pittsburgh. . Cincinnati LHP Chris Cingrani (1-0, 2.25) opposes LHP Ross Detwiler (1-1, 1.38) in Sunday’s finale.
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