ANAHEIM -- On a night when so much of the action centered around two of baseball's biggest stars, it seemed only fitting that one of them would be the driving force behind the final outcome.Bryce Harper and Michael Trout traded first-inning solo shots, but Harper ultimately topped his American League
ANAHEIM -- On a night when so much of the action centered around two of baseball's biggest stars, it seemed only fitting that one of them would be the driving force behind the final outcome.
Bryce Harper and Michael Trout traded first-inning solo shots, but Harper ultimately topped his American League rival by going 4-for-4 and scoring the go-ahead run in the Nationals' 4-3 win over the Angels in Tuesday night's series opener at Angel Stadium.
"He's a tough out because he doesn't give in," Angels starter Jesse Chavez said of Harper. "He knows his strengths, he knows his weaknesses, and he doesn't chase his weaknesses. That's a sign of a good hitter, and that's what Trouty does as well. Tonight he was able to get the four hits and kind of was our Achilles' heel."
• Harper, Trout trade first-inning homers
Harper, who was a double shy of hitting for the cycle, led off the eighth with a triple off Cam Bedrosian and scored on Ryan Zimmerman's single to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead. Adam Lind added an insurance run with a solo homer in the ninth, and newly acquired relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle sealed the victory by pitching the final two innings in their Nationals debuts.
The Angels pulled within one in the ninth after Ben Revere scored on Trout's groundout, but Doolittle coaxed a flyout from Jose Pujols to end the game and notch his first save with his new team.
"I promise they won't all be like that," Doolittle said with a smile.
• Doolittle, Madson close out W in Nats debuts
Right-hander Edwin Jackson, who made his first start in place of the injured Joe Ross, allowed two runs over seven innings in the debut of his second tour with the Nationals. The Angels mustered only three hits against Jackson, though two were solo home runs, by Trout in the first and Martin Maldonado in the sixth. Jackson was also efficient in his outing, needing just 91 pitches to complete seven innings and he did not issue a walk.
"My biggest thing has always been walks, walks, walks, behind in the count and walks and then you get a big hit," Jackson, who will receive another start in the Nats rotation, said. "I've just been trying to focus on coming out and putting an attack on hitters and make them put the ball in play."
Chavez yielded two runs on eight hits while walking none and striking out five over six-plus innings in his first start in 10 days. Chavez's lone blips were solo homers, to Harper in the first and a game-tying blast Rendon in the seventh.
The Halos' loss was further sullied by the premature exit of left fielder Cameron Maybin, who suffered a Grade 1 MCL sprain in his right knee while attempting to steal second base in the first inning. Maybin is expected to miss two to four weeks, according to the Angels.
• Maybin exits with knee injury
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Harper 1, Trout 1: The marquee matchup between the two MVP outfielders didn't disappoint. In the top of the first, Harper opened the scoring by blasting a solo home run that sailed over Trout's head and cleared the fence in left-center field. Not to be outdone, Trout countered with a solo shot of his own in the bottom half of the inning, tying the game at 1. Trout's blast, his first since coming off the disabled list last week, traveled an estimated 448 feet and marked his longest home run since September 2015, according to Statcast™.
"When I hit and it went over the fence, I thought it was pretty funny," Trout said.
Rendon ties it: Maldonado briefly gave the Angels a 2-1 lead with his solo homer in the sixth, but Rendon evened the game by belting his 20th home run of the season in the seventh. Rendon crushed an 0-1 fastball from Chavez, sending the ball sailing over both bullpens in left field.
"I thought the pitch up to Rendon was a good one," Chavez said, "but wrong situation."
Angels threaten in the ninth: The Angels tested the Nationals' new-look bullpen by mounting a dangerous rally against Doolittle in the ninth. With Revere on first and one out, Kole Calhoun doubled off the wall in right field, putting runners on second and third for the Angels. That brought up Trout, who knocked in Revere with a first-pitch groundout to trim the Nationals' lead to 4-3. Still, the Angels ultimately fell short, as Doolittle then worked out of the jam by getting Pujols to fly out to left field for the final out of the game.
"I'm out here to cherish every moment. I've been through my ups, I've been through my downs. I've been in Triple-A. I've had people asking me why am I still here? Why am I still playing? I've made some money in the game. Why don't I just go home and enjoy the family? But I still feel like I have something in the tank." -- Jackson, on getting another opportunity in the Majors
"He's a great player, of course, two-time MVP, comes out and plays hard every single day. He's a talent that comes around once in a lifetime. He's must-watch TV, always. To be able to see him and what he's done out here is very impressive. But there's a lot of young guys in this game. It's going in the right direction. I'm excited to see how it goes in the future." -- Harper, on Trout
"It's fun when we're on the field. You don't get to see it often. He's on the East Coast, but when we play each other, it's a fun battle. He brings 100 percent to the field every day, and when he's locked in, he's obviously fun to watch." -- Trout, on Harper
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Harper came flying out of the box after tripling in the eighth and reached third in 11.28 seconds, marking the fastest triple by a Nationals player this season.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Maybin was initially called safe after attempting to steal second in the bottom of the first, but the Nationals issued a challenge after Maybin appeared to come off the base as Wilmer Difo applied the tag. Maybin was called out following a replay review.
In the top of the third, Harper lined a two-out single to left field, but he was thrown out at second by former Nationals teammate Ben Revere after trying to stretch the hit into a double. Washington challenged the call, but the ruling was confirmed, ending the inning. Harper had already homered and would later single again and triple, so Revere's throw prevented Harper from hitting for the cycle.
Nationals: Left-hander Giovany Gonzalez will take the mound as the Nationals close out this two-game series Wednesday night at 10:07 p.m. ET Angel Stadium. In his first start out of the break, he picked up where he left off after a stellar first half, throwing 8 1/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts.
Angels: Right-hander Alex Meyer (3-5, 4.18 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake to face the Nationals in Wednesday's series finale at 7:07 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium. Meyer has ties to Washington, as he was the Nationals' first-round Draft pick in 2011.
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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.