The red helmet cratered into the dirt behind third base and skittered toward the outfield, discarded in a burst of energy and glee, like wrapping paper on Christmas morning. Bryce Harper sprinted for home, his slicked-back hair holding on for dear life. Ian Desmond had scorched the ball into the left field corner, and now it zipped toward the catcher, hopeless against Harper’s speed. Nationals Park erupted, louder than it had been in some time, maybe all year.

Fifty-seven games after he tore a ligament in his thumb, Harper returned Monday night and made the Washington Nationals’ lineup whole for the first time since opening day in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies. In the sixth inning, Desmond’s go-ahead, three-run double and Harper’s first-to-home dash quieted the barroom debate and prospective controversy surrounding how the Nationals will arrange their pieces. All of that ceded to the roar from a stadium happy to watch them together again, and an opponent unsure how to handle the loaded lineup.

Perhaps swept up in the frenzy of the crowd, Harper told the stadium afterward in an on-field interview, “We’re the best team in baseball.” At the moment, the Nationals remain a half game behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. But the sudden depth of the Nationals’ lineup — Wilson Ramos, No. 8 hitter? — made Harper’s remark a possibility.

Harper went 1 for 3 with an intentional walk, but the box score would not convey his influence. He made two wicked throws from left field, including one behind a runner at first base that required, in Manager Matt Williams’s words, “anticipation” and “vision.” On his lone hit, a single, Harper took second base on center fielder Drew Stubbs’s momentary fumble, his helmet flying off. His presence in the sixth spot of the Nationals’ order gave Rockies Manager Walt Weiss a dilemma at the worst time.