WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper uttered the magic word before Sunday’s game. The one children are taught to say when they really want something and a word Nationals manager Dusty Baker couldn’t resist from his star slugger: Please.
Harper hit an RBI double in his return to the lineup, Tanner Roark won his fourth straight start and Washington Nationals defeated the Atlanta Braves 9-1 Sunday.
Anthony Rendon homered and drove in four runs. Chris Heisey added a solo home run.
Harper had missed five straight games with a neck injury. The reigning NL MVP was set to sit out another, too, and wasn’t in the original lineup — the Nationals issued a revised lineup 90 minutes before the scheduled start and Harper was in right field.
“I was going to give him another day, but he came in and told me he wanted to play,” Baker said. “I told him no and he told me ‘Please.’ How do you tell a grown man (no) that says so politely that he wants to play?”
“So, I put him back in the lineup. He actually sounded like a little kid when he said so and you know I’m partial to kids sometimes,” he said.
Harper doubled in the first inning, finished 1 for 3 with a walk and scored twice, a day after general manager Mike Rizzo said results of an MRI on Harper’s neck came back “clean.”
The outfielder’s take on the talk with Baker sounded more man-to-man.
“I just walked in there and said I could help the team win today,” Harper stated. “He said, ‘OK, no problem.'”
Roark (13-6) allowed one run over seven innings while the Nationals tagged Braves starter Tyrell Jenkins (2-3).
Washington took two of three from Atlanta, which closed its three-city, 10-game road trip 5-5.
Trea Turner, who came up a double short for the cycle in Saturday’s 7-6 win, led off with a two-base hit and scored on Ben Revere’s single. Revere took second on a throwing error.
Harper lofted a double into the left-field corner and later scored on Rendon’s sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.
“It felt good. Get back out there and help the team win,” Harper said. “That’s the greatest thing.”
The three first-inning runs were one more than Jenkins allowed in his previous 18 innings over three starts. The right-hander gave up seven runs and six hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Jenkins exited after Rendon’s homer capped a four-run fifth, which began with a walk to Roark.
“Obviously I wasn’t trying to walk him,” Jenkins said. “Once that happened it kind of went downhill from there. That can’t happen and it’s something I’ve got to work on.”
Despite temperatures in the high 90s throughout the game, Roark improved to 4-0 with a 1.65 ERA over his last four starts. He has pitched at least seven innings in eight of his last 10 starts.
“He never complains about the heat. He never complains about anything,” Baker said. “He just goes out there and pitches and the team responds behind him.”
Erick Aybar drove in Atlanta’s lone run. Freddie Freeman had two hits.
Turner went 2 for 5 for his third straight multihit game in the series. The rookie leadoff hitter finished 8 for 15 including home run, triple and double, scored six runs and stole two bases.
ANOTHER TABLE SETTER
Ender Inciarte opened the game with a single and added a double. He has reached base in a career-high 25 straight games for the Braves.
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran (right lat strain) allowed one earned run over five innings in a rehab start at Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday.
Nationals: NL batting leader Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth were out of the lineup following Saturday night’s win. Werth’s on-base streak of 42-games is one behind Ryan Zimmerman’s club record of 43 set in 2009.
Braves: Atlanta returns home for a two-game set with Minnesota starting Tuesday. Joel De La Cruz (0-5, 4.09) opens the series against fellow right-hander Ervin Santana (5-9, 3.62).
Nationals: Max Scherzer (12-7, 2.80 ERA) starts Monday at Colorado against Jorge De La Rosa (7-7, 5.25 ERA) as Washington opens a nine-game road trip.
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