Game in a nutshell: A game with all sorts of delicious storylines -- including Bryce Harper's debut and Stephen Strasburg's first career start in Southern California -- more than lived up to its billing but ended in crushing fashion. Strasburg was brilliant over seven innings, striking out nine. And Harper dazzled the sellout crowd both with his bat (a double off the base of the center-field fence) and his arm (a missile to the plate that would have nailed Jerry Hairston had catcher Wilson Ramos not dropped the ball). Then with the game on the line in the ninth inning, Harper delivered again: His sacrifice fly to left brought home Rick Ankiel and gave the kid his first career RBI and what looked like the game-winning RBI. That was, until Henry Rodriguez entered in the bottom of the ninth and blew the save amid a flurry of base hits and wild pitches and sent the game into extras. Then Matt Kemp crushed a pitch from Tom Gorzelanny into the center-field bleachers to give the Dodgers a 4-3 victory.
Hitting highlight: Where would the Nationals be without Adam LaRoche right now? Seriously, how clutch has the veteran first baseman been for this offensively challenged team? LaRoche did it again tonight leading off the seventh inning in a scoreless game, belting a solo shot down the right-field line for his team-leading, fourth homer of the season. He's also got a team-high 17 RBI. And his single off left-hander Scott Elbert ignited the game-winning rally in the ninth.
Pitching highlight: Strasburg has put together some dominant starts in his young career, but this one might have rivaled any of the previous ones. In control from the moment he toed the rubber, the right-hander blew away a good Dodgers team and struck out MVP candidate Matt Kemp twice on fastballs. Unfortunately, Strasburg wound up with no-decision after allowing a dubious run in the seventh. Still, this was yet another big-time performance from Strasburg on the big stage.
Key stat: Of the first 465 batters he faced in the big leagues, Strasburg hit only one. Then he plunked two in a span of 17 batters tonight.
Up next: Gio Gonzalez takes the mound Sunday at 4:10 p.m. EDT for the finale of this series and this West Coast trip. Lefty Chris Capuano starts for the Dodgers, a potentially tough matchup for Harper.