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Bryce Harper homered on his very first swing back off the DL.
Hitting highlight: Obviously, there were plenty of early fireworks, but it all started with one sweet swing from the young man who hadn't faced a big-league pitcher in five weeks. Just as he did on Opening Day, Harper crushed a 1-0 pitch in the bottom of the first inning for a home run. And just as he did that day in April, he received a curtain call for his efforts. Harper was mostly silenced the rest of the night, but his teammates made sure to do more than their share, pounding out eight runs off Yovani Gallardo by the fourth inning. Jayson Werth doubled and singled, driving in five runs. Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond each delivered RBI doubles. Ryan Zimmerman added an RBI single. Even Zimmermann went 3-for-3 with a double. On the heels of yesterday's 13-run explosion in New York, it was another impressive display from a Nationals lineup that just maybe is finally living up to expectations.
Pitching lowlight: Zimmermann has been the Nationals' best pitcher this season, no question, and one of the best pitchers in baseball. But what is it about the right-hander that makes him so averse to being handed big leads? Only three times this year has he surrendered more than three runs. In each instance, he was handed a lead of at least four runs: May 29 in Baltimore and June 15 in Cleveland. Those two previous times, Zimmermann gave the entire lead back. Tonight, he didn't quite go that far, but he certainly didn't take that 8-0 lead and run with it. After four scoreless innings to begin the night, he gave up two runs on three hits in the fifth, then back-to-back homers in the sixth. Despite throwing only 88 pitches, Zimmermann's night ended after six innings, an early hook that seemed totally implausible an hour earlier but unfortunately might have been predictable given his past troubles protecting a hefty lead.
Key stat: Werth recorded five RBI tonight for the first time since July 6, 2009 when he played for the Phillies.
Up next: Stephen Strasburg (4-6, 2.41) takes the mound for the second game of this four-game series, looking to continue his recent run of dominance. Right-hander Wily Peralta (5-9, 5.58) gets the nod for the Brewers at 7:05 p.m.