Bryce Harper was forced out of the first game of today's doubleheader after fouling a ball off his left ankle, a potentially serious blow to a Nationals club that has been trying to overcome injuries all season.
Harper was attempting to bunt in the bottom of the first inning when he fouled Braves right-hander Ben Sheets' pitch off the top of his back foot, near the ankle joint. The 19-year-old outfielder hobbled around for several minutes while assistant trainer Mike McGowan and manager Davey Johnson tended to him, but convinced the duo to let him return to the batter's box and complete the at-bat.
Harper wound up striking out on Sheets' next pitch, then limped his way out to center field for the top of the second inning. When the top of the third arrived, Roger Bernadina took the rookie's place.
The Nationals announced Harper was removed from the game for precautionary reasons with a "sore left ankle."
Though Harper has been in a bit of a slump at the plate -- he's 5 for his last 31, with a batting average that has dipped into the .260s for the first time since May 25 -- his loss would be a big blow for the Nationals, who in the last three days designated a pair of veteran outfielders for assignment: Rick Ankiel and Xavier Nady.
If Harper had to miss any significant time, the Nationals would likely recall outfielder Corey Brown from Class AAA Syracuse to take his spot. Brown, 26, is hitting .302 with 21 homers, 58 RBI and a .384 on-base percentage in 93 games with the Chiefs.