WASHINGTON - On his first swing back from a knee injury, Bryce Harper hit a curtain-call home run.
Welcome back, slugger.
"Typical Bryce right there, he's all about the drama," teammate Jayson Werth said. "He didn't disappoint us, I guess."
Harper's first-inning solo shot Monday night was the sparkplug for the Washington Nationals in a 10-5 pounding of the slumping Milwaukee Brewers.
It was the 20-year-old Harper's only hit of the night, but the domino effect was real. Werth, unhappily bumped to second in the lineup because of Harper's return, got five RBIs. Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmerman was an unexpected offensive juggernaut with a team-high three hits, including a double to start a five-run third inning and a single to open a two-run fourth.
After toying with .500 for the entire month of June, Washington moved two games above the break-even mark for the first time since late May.
"It's kind of contagious. Everybody knows we've got some work to do," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "Let's get down to business. Let's get serious."
Harper missed 31 games with bursitis in his left knee - the most lingering fallout from his collision with the Dodger Stadium wall - and was activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game. Batting third and playing left field, he launched the second pitch he saw, a fastball from Yovani Gallardo (6-8), into the visitors' bullpen beyond left field for an opposite-field homer.
Harper raised his right arm and pointed to the fans as he finished his familiar sprint around the bases. After lots of high-fives in the dugout, he returned to the top of the steps and gave a thumbs-up curtain call.
"I felt like I was back on opening day," said Harper, who homered in his first two at-bats of the season. "I was trying to get something I could drive. I got a pitch I could handle a little bit and put it where I wanted to."
The solo shot was Harper's 13th homer of the season and 24th RBI. He hurt his knee in the mishap in Los Angeles on May 13 and reinjured it several times over the following two weeks before going on the disabled list. He went 4 for 11 in minor league rehab games last week.
He finished 1 for 4 with a walk on Monday. The Nationals improved to 26-19 when Harper plays; they are 16-21 when he doesn't. Zimmermann (12-3) had an 8-0 lead at one point and pitched six innings. He allowed four runs and tied unbeaten Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers for the major league lead in wins.