Williams flips Harper, Rendon in lineup following loss

Williams flips Harper, Rendon in lineup following loss
July 5, 2014, 3:15 pm
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One day after swapping Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon in the batting order, Nationals manager Matt Williams did a 180 with the second and sixth slots.

With surprise right-handed starter Carlos Villanueva on the mound for the Chicago Cubs, Rendon will bat second and Harper sixth.

That's where Washington's left fielder batted in his first three games back from disabled list. Circumstances played a factor as the Colorado Rockies started three lefties against the Nationals. With a righty on the mound Friday, Williams wanted the left-handed hitting Harper batting second.  

Perhaps the key word there is hitting, something Harper struggled with against Jason Hammel, though he was hardly alone in Washington's 7-2 loss. Harper went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, taking some awkward swings in the process. He represented the tying run in the fifth with two runners on base and two out, but struck out to end the inning.

"He's a little jumpy," Williams said of Harper following Friday's loss. "He's jumping at it a little bit. That long a layoff...it takes some time to get back in the swing of it. Looks a little bit jumpy to me. Not quite seeing it as well as he can."

Harper is 3 for 15 with one double since returning to the lineup on June 30.

Friday's loss ended a five-game a winning streak.  Washington scored 18 runs in three games with Harper batting sixth and Rendon second.

Before Saturday's game, Williams' explanation of the lineup change led back to Harper's bat.

"Bryce is a little off. We certainly want to get him going. He needs at-bats. Yesterday I thought we give him an opportunity to potentially get some good fastballs to hit if (leadoff hitter) Denard (Span) got on. ...He's a little jumpy still. He's continuing to work on. Get him down to sixth today and let him go."

The other spots in the field remain the same with Gio Gonzalez (5-4) making the start.

* The Nationals left their home ballpark Friday afternoon having just lost yet again to Hammel and prepped for stout pitching challenge from Jeff Samardzija. Friday night they learned neither of those pitchers were with the Cubs anymore.

Chicago confirmed on Saturday a blockbuster trade with Oakland that sent Hammel and Samardzija to the A's for top shortstop prospect Addison Russell, minor league outfielder Billy McKinney and pitcher Dan Straily.

Hammel improved to 8-0 lifetime against Washington in Friday's win.

Asked if he wished the A's had dealt Hammel before Friday's game, Williams joked, "Yeah. Day late."

Chicago will start Villanueva (4-5, 5.91) in place of Samardzija, who sported a 2.83 ERA. Primarily a long reliever, Villanueva has made 19 starts over the last two seasons, the last one on April 25. In his last three starts this season, he allowed 18 runs and 29 hits over 12 2-3 innings.

The Cubs will stick with RHP Jake Arrieta against Jordan Zimmermann for Sunday's series finale.