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Harper, still under weather, tallies four hits

Harper, still under weather, tallies four hits

MIAMI -- The Nationals hope to have Denard Span and Danny Espinosa back for Friday night's series opener against the Mets in New York, but they returned one ailing hitter to their starting lineup Wednesday night.

And make no mistake about it: Bryce Harper was still sick.

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The 20-year-old phenom went 4-for-5 with a double and an RBI and recorded three hits off Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco in the Nationals' 6-1 win over the Marlins after sitting out the previous game due to a stomach flu that kept him up all night.

But Harper deemed himself well enough to play after a pregame IV, and he said he felt "solid as a rock" afterward. He simply wasn't going to sit out Wednesday, even as bad as he felt on the field.

"I was still struggling. The biggest thing was trying to keep everything down and fluids down," Harper said afterward. "I think getting in the box and swinging made my head spin a little bit. It was just a matter of trying to have good ABs and trying to get some knocks and trying to help the team out."

Believe it or not, Harper said his worst moment wasn't when he left the dugout to vomit in the second inning. He felt the worst after a sixth-inning double off Nolasco. He was bending over, sick and worn out, but he kept playing.

"I thought he was going to die every time he went up there and he got a hit," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.

And he continued to beat up on Nolasco. Harper homered twice against the Marlins right-hander on Opening Day and finished 3-for-3 against him Wednesday night, boosting his career average against Nolasco to .450 (9-for-20).

"Now, it's to the point where I make good pitches and they're still falling," Nolasco said. "I just hope he just doesn't turn into Chipper Jones [who hit .341 off Nolasco] for me, where every time I break his bat or make good pitches, they're still hits."

Span, who also sat out Tuesday, felt better Wednesday but wasn't quite feeling up to speed. He seemed to be hit a little harder by whatever stomach flu bug affected him and Harper. He reported to Marlins Park early Tuesday afternoon but was sent back to the team hotel and couldn't even build up the strength to get out of bed and come back to meet a doctor around 6 p.m. ET, so he remained in bed the rest of the night.

Espinosa had been hoping to return Wednesday, but his bruised right forearm didn't heal quickly enough for that to happen. Espinosa has been saying he'll return by Friday "at the latest," but Johnson was even a bit cautious about that projection, though he reiterated that the injury isn't anything more serious than a bad bruise.

Espinosa did field a few grounders at second base during batting practice, but as of Wednesday afternoon, he hadn't taken any swings since the injury occurred.

"I knew there wasn't going to be any chance [Espinosa would be back in the lineup Wednesday]," Johnson said. "We've got an off-day coming, so that gives him another day. I think he's probably got a 50-50 chance Friday."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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