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Harper pulled for first base run as Nationals lose to Cardinals

WASHINGTON -- Washington star Bryce Harper was taken out of the game by first-year manager Matt Williams for failing to run hard to first base on a routine out during a 4-3 loss to St. Louis on Saturday.

Harper's sanction compounded a bad day for the Nationals, who dropped 2-1/2 games behind National League East leader Atlanta, which beat the New York Mets in a tense finish.

Elsewhere, NL leader Milwaukee beat Pittsburgh thanks to a Ryan Braun homer with two outs in the ninth inning, and San Diego inflicted a third-straight loss on San Francisco.

Harper's transgression happened in the sixth inning, when he hit a groundball back to St. Louis pitcher Lance Lynn and, expecting to be routinely thrown out at first base, he jogged half-heartedly toward the base and before making it halfway he turned and went back to the dugout.

Harper late said “I respect what he did” when asked about the manager's decision to pull him, and Williams said Harper would be in the starting lineup for Sunday's game.

Lynn (4-0) won his fourth straight start as the Cardinals remained two games behind Milwaukee.

The Brewers improved to a majors-leading 13-5 record by edging Pittsburgh 8-7.

Ryan Braun hit his second homer of the game with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, with the two-run shot proving to be the game winner as the Pirates could not respond in the bottom of the inning.

Braun has five home runs this season after being suspended for the final 65 games last year in the Biogenesis drug scandal.

The go-ahead drive came off Pirates closer Jason Grilli (0-1), his second blown save in six opportunities. Jean Segura's two-out single kept the inning going for Braun, who had three hits and three RBIs.

Atlanta pitcher Jordan Walden got the final out of the game with the bases loaded to give the Braves a 7-5 win at the Mets.

New York scored twice off closer Craig Kimbrel, who loaded the bases with a two-out walk to Lucas Duda. That's when manager Fredi Gonzalez went to the mound and replaced Kimbrel, who looked unhappy with the decision.

Walden retired Travis d'Arnaud on a grounder to end it. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was positioned well and made a strong throw to get d'Arnaud at first.

San Diego's pitching staff again thwarted San Francisco's struggling batting lineup and delivered a 3-1 win to the Padres.

San Diego starter Eric Stults (1-2) kept the already struggling Giants off balance and largely off the base paths, allowing one run in six innings with no walks.

The Giants have scored only three runs in their past 28 innings. It was the first time in nine games they weren't involved in a one-run decision.

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San Diego Padres' Everth Cabrera is out at home as San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey tags him in the fifth inning of a baseball game in San Diego, Saturday, April 19. Cabrera was trying to score from third on an infield grounder. (AP)

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