Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper leaves game with apparent left knee injury

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper appeared to injure his left knee when he slipped on a wet first base, a potentially devastating blow to the NL East-leading Washington Nationals.

While running out a ground ball to the right side of the infield in the first inning Saturday night against the San Francisco Giants, Harper avoided contact with first baseman Ryder Jones and his left foot slipped on the base. His leg buckled, he went airborne and fell to the ground as his helmet went flying.

Harper clutched at his left knee after going down and was attended to by trainers. The star outfielder put no weight on his left leg as he was helped off the field by hitting coach Rick Schu and head athletic trainer Paul Lessard.

The game began just after 10 p.m. following a 3-hour rain delay. It was raining steadily when Harper’s injury happened.

Major League Baseball was in control of weather decisions because it’s the Giants’ final trip to Washington this season. The series opener Friday was postponed after a lengthy rain delay to be a part of a day-night doubleheader Sunday, adding to baseball’s incentive of getting the game in Saturday.

But the game is unlikely to have an impact on the playoff race as the Nationals lead the NL East by 14 games and the Giants are out of contention. At the most, it could have an effect on home-field advantage in October.

Even though first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is having an All-Star season, Washington’s title hopes hinge largely on Harper’s health. The 2015 MVP is having another spectacular season, hitting .327 with 29 home runs and 87 RBI this season and played in 105 of the Nationals’ first 113 games.

Harper didn’t last long in his 106th game and was replaced by Andrew Stevenson, who took over in center field with Brian Goodwin moving to right. Despite many…

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