PHOENIX -- In his first career Major League start on Saturday, D-backs left-hander Anthony Banda found himself on the wrong end of a 4-3 loss to the Nationals. But for most of his outing, Arizona's No. 1 prospect kept the best offense in the National League completely handcuffed.
Banda went 5 2/3 innings and struck out five, surrendering four earned runs and seven hits. Washington's scoring consisted of a first-inning mammoth solo homer by Bryce Harper, and a three-run sixth inning in which the Nationals racked up three extra-base hits.
Sandwiched in between those innings were four frames in which Banda, 23, held the NL East leaders to two hits and no walks, striking out three.
"He looked great out there," D-backs center fielder A.J. Pollock said. "He commanded the zone. His stuff looked really good. Even in the first inning -- Harper's a great hitter. He breezed through the first two guys and Harper got him. But he bounced back and gave us a good chance to win that game."
Banda induced five swinging strikes on a fastball that topped out at 96.5 mph, and in that four-inning span, he forced eight flyouts.
He needed just 45 pitches to get through those four innings but said the Nationals adjusted to his game plan in the sixth.
"That's a young guy out there that throws the ball really hard, has good stuff, has good command," Harper said. "He's going to be really good in the next couple years for sure. So just we got him this time and got a few runs up there and won the ballgame."
Even after Harper -- who ranks among the NL's top three in all of the triple-crown categories -- took Banda deep just 17 pitches into his Major League career, he continued to go after batters.
"That's something that I'm always gonna do to every hitter," Banda said. "It doesn't matter really who's in the box. I'm always gonna challenge the hitter; that's the name of the game. That's what our job is as pitchers."
The D-backs announced after the game that Banda was optioned back to Triple-A Reno to make room on the roster for Taijuan Walker, who will return from paternity leave following the birth of his son on Friday. The D-backs won't have a need for a starter if the current staff stays healthy, but Banda could be an option out of the bullpen when rosters expand in September.
"Next time when I get back up, I want to stay," Banda said. "I want to prove to the entire team that I can help us win."