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Bryce Harper gets key to city and homers, but can't stop Nationals from losing

WASHINGTON -- In the pantheon of fluky momentum stoppers, this wasn't quite on par with the Super Bowl 47 blackout that helped turn a Baltimore Ravens rout into a thriller, but you could certainly file it in the same folder.

After spotting the visiting Miami Marlins a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning in their home opener, the Washington Nationals managed to claw right back in the bottom of the first thanks to a two-out, bases-loaded triple by new second baseman Daniel Murphy. For a team that was one of five undefeated clubs heading into Thursday, and had overcome deficits in each of its first two wins, it looked like the Nats might be on their way to a third straight come-from-behind win.

Then things got wet. Real wet in the Nationals' eventual 6-4 loss to the Marlins.

On a day when pageantry reigned supreme at Nats Park, this wasn't supposed to happen. The on-field ceremony during which Bryce Harper received his Silver Slugger and MVP awards from Washington general manager Mike Rizzo, and then the key to the city from DC mayor Muriel Bowser? That was planned. The national anthem sung by the cast of Jersey Boys? That was on the itinerary, too. The red-carpet intros and the military flyover? Both part of the script (although presumably the planes were supposed to come at the end of the anthem, not the beginning.)

The torrential downpour that stopped the game at the end of the first inning, just moments after Murphy had tied things up? Not part of the plan.

Eighty-five minutes later, when play finally resumed, it looked as if the Nats had left their mojo in the clubhouse. Starter Tanner Roark, who defied conventional baseball logic by retaking the mound after the lengthy delay, labored through three more innings, allowing a total of 12 baserunners in four frames. From the second inning on, Nats batters managed just four more hits and went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Washington's defense looked lackluster, too, as shortstop Danny Espinosa couldn't come up with a fourth-inning grounder up the middle by J.T. Realmuto (ruled a single), who then stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Wilson Ramos before scoring the go-ahead run.

Although the Nationals had their chances -- they walked seven times from the second inning on -- the lone post-precipitation highlight came in the seventh, when Harper crushed a 92-mph sinker from Miami reliever Bryan Morris over the right-field wall and off the facing of the second deck. It was the reigning MVP's second homer of the season.

After the game, manager Dusty Baker admitted that the lengthy delay didn't do his club any favors.

"When the rain comes, it's a downer," said Baker, whose 2-0 start with the Nationals marked the first time he'd won his first two games with a new team. "We didn't know how long we were gonna sit in the clubhouse, but that's one of the things that you have to deal with in the spring, the adverse weather."

Baker's bunch also had to deal with was a short night's sleep after arriving from Atlanta in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

"You hate to use the late get-in, but you could see the guys' concentration level wasn't the same, like it had been in the past. It was a long game, short night."

Not that Baker was making excuses.

"Sometimes you lose, and sometimes you get beat. And tonight, I think we got beat."

If you're keeping score at home, credit the Nationals with an L, the Marlins with a W and Mother Nature with an assist.