Harper logs first HR by lefty vs. Kershaw in '14

Harper logs first HR by lefty vs. Kershaw in '14

LOS ANGELES -- Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was the only bright spot in a 4-1 loss to left-hander Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.

The Nationals never made any serious threat against the left-hander until Harper went deep in the seventh, the first homer and RBI recorded by a left-handed batter against Kershaw this season. It snapped a string of 12 consecutive batters retired and 17 of 18.

"Oh, man. He is the best pitcher in baseball, hands down" said Harper, who went 1-for-4 in the game. "He goes out there and locates his pitches. He has his fastball, curveball, changeup and slider. He is very, very good. He is definitely the best pitcher in baseball."

Entering the game, Kershaw had held lefties to a .173 average (19-for-110). The last left-handed hitter to homer off him was Reds slugger Jay Bruce, who did it twice on Sept. 8, 2013.

Harper didn't seem all that pleased he was able to go yard against the best pitcher in baseball.

"In my first AB, I thought I had a great at-bat. He challenged me with some heaters," Harper said. "The second at-bat, he made me look pretty dumb on the curveball. It was the best pitch I ever saw in my whole life. In the next AB, I was trying for something in the zone. I tried to swing as hard as I could to make something happen. It was nice to get that off him, but we still lost the ballgame."

To manager Matt Williams, Harper is getting stronger after missing two months with a broken left thumb.

"His hand is coming back to him," Williams said. "His bat speed is much better. He doesn't have to generate with his lower half. He got good bat speed and he got a good pitch to hit and delivered it."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.