Before Saturday’s 5-4 win over the San Diego Padres, Manager Davey Johnson and Bryce Harper had a talk. After his recent mini-slump grew to five days Friday, Johnson wanted to rest Harper for the rest of the weekend because he was “grinding too hard.”

Harper sent Johnson a text message Friday night that read, “play me or trade me,” and on Saturday morning Harper explained why he wanted to be in the lineup. He talked his way in, and his three RBI helped power the Washington Nationals to their third straight win, one in which the Nationals overcame a rare spell of inconsistency from starter Jordan Zimmermann, who battled hot weather and a stiff neck. Ryan Zimmerman delivered the game-winning hit, and nifty defensive plays by Anthony Rendon and Adam LaRoche sealed the win in a wild ninth inning pitched by Rafael Soriano.

The victory pushed the Nationals’ record to three games over .500 for the first time since May 18, perhaps a sign this team is starting to pull out of a months-long bout of maddening inconsistency.

Harper helped pave the way to the recent improvement with his bat. He also made a nice diving play in the fifth inning to prevent a base hit in shallow left field. He entered the game in an 0-for-18 slide since he homered in his first at-bat back from the disabled list Monday. Johnson was worried mostly about Harper’s body language, which perhaps suggested he needed a mental and physical break, but Harper explained to him he was healthy and just needed more at-bats to get his timing back.

“I was pretty serious about what I said [in the text],” Harper said after the game. “I want to play. I wanted to play every single day. I think if he wants to put me in the lineup, then I want to be in the lineup. If he doesn’t, I’m going to try to make him put me in the lineup. It’s something that I want to do every day. I’m going to grind through everything that I do, play as hard as I can, and good things will happen.”

Harper finished 1 for 2 but delivered productive at-bats. He drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk in the third inning by spitting on a close 2-1 change-up and outside 3-1 change-up from Jason Marquis, the former National making his first start in Washington since his 2011 trade. Harper drove in another run with a single in the fifth.