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X-rays negative, Harper in Nats' lineup

Outfielder left Wednesday's win over Braves with bruise under left shoulder blade

ATLANTA -- Outfielder Bryce Harper left Wednesday night's game, a 2-0 win over the Braves, while dealing with the remnants of a bruise under his left shoulder blade. Good news came on Thursday, though, as X-rays came back negative, and Harper was put in the Nationals' lineup for the series finale.

Leading off the sixth inning, Harper tried to check his swing on an 0-1 pitch from starter Paul Maholm. Though he winced following the swing, he finished the at-bat, hitting a smash to first baseman Freddie Freeman on Maholm's next offering.

"The check swing, having all the force going toward the ball then just stopping, immediately it just got me a little bit," said Harper, who went 0-for-2 but drew an important leadoff walk in the fourth inning. "It got me to the point where I couldn't breathe and I had to catch my breath. It didn't feel very good."

Roger Bernadina took over in right to start the bottom of the sixth.

"He didn't want to come out of the ballgame, but I saw him grimace, and I was a little concerned about him playing," said manager Davey Johnson.

The site of the injury was vulnerable long before the sixth. The area was bruised on Tuesday night when he ran into the fenced scoreboard in right field trying to pull in a home run by Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson.

"We couldn't take a chance on it," said Johnson. "You worry about it, because it's a really bad contusion in there. With all the blood in there, it could cause some other problems. We'll take it day by day and check him tomorrow."

Harper, who went into Wednesday's game leading the National League in multihit games (12), was playing in right field due to injuries to regular right fielder Jayson Werth.

How he felt as Thursday's series finale draws nearer was the big issue, but Harper -- who described the area as "a little tight" following ice and other treatment -- was optimistic.

"Hopefully, I can come in tomorrow, feel like a million bucks and play," Harper said. "If I can play tomorrow, I'm going to play. I can play with pain. I can tolerate pain. There's hopefully nothing that can keep me out of that lineup tomorrow."

Jon Cooper is a contributor to
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