Tests rule out fracture in Bryce Harper’s left ankle

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UPDATE: Feel free to exhale, Nats fans. According to Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com, tests on Harper’s ankle revealed a contusion and not a break. He’s sitting out the nightcap of today’s doubleheader against the Braves.

2:21 PM: Word from the Nationals is that Harper is dealing with left ankle soreness. His exit from today’s game was considered precautionary.

2:05 PM: According to Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com, Bryce Harper left the first game of this afternoon’s doubleheader against the Braves after fouling a ball off his left ankle/foot on a bunt attempt.

Harper suffered the injury in the bottom of the first inning. He struck out swinging to finish the at-bat and remained in the game initially, but Roger Bernadina replaced him in center field to begin the top of the third inning. The severity of the injury isn’t yet known, but it’s ill-timed for the Nationals, who have designated outfielders Rick Ankiel and Xavier Nady for assignment in recent days.

Harper, 19, is batting .268/.339/.440 with eight home runs, 26 RBI, 11 stolen bases and a .779 OPS in 72 games played during his rookie season.

Albert Pujols is eighth on the all-time home run list

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Albert Pujols kicked things off for the Angels in dramatic fashion on Friday night, cranking a two-RBI home run off of the Orioles’ Jeremy Hellickson to give the club an early lead in the first inning. The 350-footer was his 18th home run of the year and No. 609 in his 17-season career, tying Sammy Sosa on the all-time home run list for eighth overall and most home runs hit by a player born outside of the United States.

With the home run, Pujols sits just three homers shy of tying Jim Thome’s 612-home run record for seventh on the all-time list. That figures to be the last major milestone still ahead of the designated hitter this season, with Ken Griffey Jr.’s 630-home run mark still a distant 21 blasts away.

The Angels, meanwhile, ran with Pujols’ lead, collecting home runs from Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron, Kaleb Cowart and Mike Trout. It wasn’t quite enough to quash the Orioles, however, who surged to a 9-7 finale after Manny Machado went 3-for-5 with three home runs and struck a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

Nationals place Max Scherzer on 10-day disabled list with neck inflammation

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The Nationals placed right-hander Max Scherzer on the 10-day disabled list with left neck inflammation, the team announced Friday. Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start against the Padres and replaced by left-hander Matt Grace, though an official roster move has yet to be made to fill his spot on the roster. The assignment is retroactive to August 15.

Scherzer experienced a similar pain on the right side of his neck at the start of the month, though this is the first official stint he’ll serve on the disabled list in 2017. While comments from club manager Dusty Baker suggest that the injury wasn’t caused by any particular trauma, it seems likely that the ace right-hander will be sidelined for at least one more start.

It’s a terrible time to lose a star pitcher, especially with the Nationals positioned to make a deep run in the postseason, but their 14-game cushion in the NL East should buy them some time while Scherzer’s on the mend. Prior to his bout of inflammation, the 33-year-old looked remarkably healthy this season. He pitched through his fifth consecutive All-Star campaign and currently boasts a 12-5 record in 24 starts, complete with a 2.25 ERA (good for second-best among qualified starters), 2.2 BB/9 and 12.3 SO/9 in 160 1/3 innings.