WASHINGTON D.C. - Ryder Jones saw two big men sprinting his way and thought that there was going to be a collision in the rain at Nationals Park. Jones and Jeff Samardzija avoided injury. Bryce Harper, however, wasn't as lucky.
Harper, the superstar right fielder here in Washington D.C., crumpled after slipping on first base in the first inning Saturday night. The injury stunned a crowd that waited three hours for the rain-delayed game, which the Nationals won 3-1.
Harper was diagnosed with a hyperextended left knee. He will have an MRI on Sunday to determine if there are further injuries.
"It didn't look good. I hope he's alright," Jones said. "It was one of those freak plays where you think there's going to be a collision but there wasn't. The tops of the bases were wet from the rain. I stepped on the base and jumped out of the way. I didn't really notice anything when I tagged the base and then I heard all the fans go 'ohhhh.'
"He looked like he was in pretty good pain. You never want that to happen to a player."
Harper was hurt about 20 minutes after the first pitch, which came three hours later than planned because of a storm that hit Nationals Park in the evening. It was unclear why Major League Baseball did not push Friday's postponed game to Saturday afternoon, when the skies were clear. The teams ended up going through their routines for a 7:05 start, but as Samardzija headed to the dugout to start warming up, the Giants were told they would be delayed.
They scrambled to get a new start time at a park where just about every rain-related decision this season has backfired. At 7:57 p.m., the rain finally arrived in sheets. The teams did not take the field until 10:06 p.m., and neither manager altered his lineup despite a steady drizzle that kept the field soaked from the start. Bruce Bochy checked the field and thought it looked fine.
The Giants took an early lead on a Joe Panik homer, but the Nationals struck right back, threatening with Wilmer Difo's one-out double in the bottom of the first. Harper pulled a hard grounder that looked like an RBI double before it found Jones' outstretched glove. Jones got up and raced Harper and Samardzija to the bag, in what was an odd coincidence. It was Samardzija who was racing into a scrum earlier this season to get to Harper, but Michael Morse got in the way and saw his season end instead.
As Jones stepped on first, he deftly moved to his right to get out of Harper's way. Harper slipped on the top of the bag and skidded forward, his knee twisting grotesquely. After a couple of minutes on the ground, he was helped off the field with his legs hanging in the air.
"I saw a guy hustling to try to get a hit," Samardzija said. "You wait around three hours and you come out and everyone wants to play. It was tough conditions. It's tough to see, especially with a kid who plays so hard and cares so much. Hopefully it's not as bad as they think and he comes back sooner rather than later."