Nationals’ Bryce Harper injured, exits game

WASHINGTON — Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was carried off the field in the first inning of Saturday’s game against the Giants, unable to put any weight on his leg after hitting the first-base bag awkwardly trying to beat out an infield single.

As Harper’s left foot made contact with the bag, it slipped over the top and his leg appeared to buckle as he fell to the ground past the base, grabbing his leg by the knee. The crowd at Nationals Park, which waited out a 3:01 rain delay, fell nearly silent as Harper stayed on the ground in obvious pain with team athletic trainers and coaches coming out to check on him before ultimately carrying him off the field.

Andrew Stevenson came in to the game to replace Harper and play center field while Brian Goodwin shifted to right field.

Although the status of his injury is unknown, a potential serious injury to Harper could perhaps change the complexion of the Nationals season for a team with World Series aspirations.

Harper is in the midst of a terrific 2017 campaign that has him in the mix to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award for the second time in his young career. Harper has put together a slash line at .326/.419/.614 with 29 home runs and a 1.033 OPS. He has been worth 5.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to Fangraphs, which is the fifth best in MLB.

The Nationals are already thin on outfield depth and have used 12 different outfielders this season. Washington is already without two-thirds of its starting outfield from Opening Day. Center fielder Adam Eaton is lost for the season with a torn ACL, and his replacement, Michael Taylor, is on the DL with an oblique injury (although he is currently on a Minor League rehab assignment). Left fielder Jayson Werth is still on the DL with a left foot contusion.

But the absence of Harper could leave the Nationals and MLB without one of its most dynamic and exciting players.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.