After the most devastating moment of a disheartening season the Washington Nationals received a necessary reminder. They may have been stuck in a crushing skid. Their axles and wheels may have been flying in every direction. So many factions of the team may have failed them. But they still had Bryce Harper.

With two outs in the ninth inning Thursday afternoon Harper blasted his first career walk-off home run and lifted the Nationals to a rollercoaster 9-7 victory at Nationals Park. They snapped their six-game losing streak only after the Pittsburgh Pirates tied the game with four runs in the ninth inning a meltdown that included a 22-year-old rookie replacing a $28 million closer as Manager Davey Johnson watched from the clubhouse following his first ejection of the season.

After the disaster Harper saved them. Kurt Suzuki ensured he would come to bat with a one-out single. Bryan Morris hung a slider and Harper hammered it over the left-center field fence. He floated around the bases pumping his fist and yelling. His teammates waited for him at the plate. He squirmed out of the pile Ryan Zimmerman still punching him in the side.

Steve Lombardozzi’s RBI double and Adam LaRoche’s two-run triple had given the Nationals a three-run insurance in the bottom of the eighth. Soriano needed to record three outs before the Pirates scored three runs. He had not pitched since Saturday but the simplicity of the task seemed to override any rust factor.

Soriano invited disaster from the start. He walked the first two batters he faced. Jordy Mercer ripped an RBI double to the left-center field gap and suddenly MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen was walking to the plate as the tying run. Soriano stabilized the inning with a strikeout.

Russell Martin though grounded a single past shortstop Ian Desmond which scored another run. Left-handed slugger Pedro Alvarez lumbered into the batter’s box. Bench coach Randy Knorr emerged from the Nationals dugout and marched to the mound.