For a struggling offense, the start of Washington’s series opener at Cincinnati was just what was needed. The Nationals wasted little time pushing runs across the board, scoring three in the 1st, another in the 2nd, two more in the 3rd, and another in the 4th thanks to some unlikely contributors.
Ian Desmond led the game off with a single to center. Roger Bernadina followed, batting 2nd in the lineup for the second consecutive start. He worked a 10-pitch at bat against Reds starter Mike Leake. After working a full count and then fouling off four straight pitches, Bernadina drove a 2-run home run to right center field. It was his second home run in as many days. Ryan Zimmerman worked a walk as the next batter in the inning and came around to score on a double by Adam LaRoche. Leake would settle down from there, starting with striking out Bryce Harper, but the Nationals were still up 3-0 after the top of the 1st inning.
Bernadina would drive in another run in the 2nd, singling to left with two outs to score Wilson Ramos, who’d led off the inning with a base hit. After two, 4-0 Nationals.
LaRoche walked to start the 3rd, only to score two batters later after Danny Espinosa hit his second home run of the season. That’s 6-0 Nationals after three innings.
Desmond once again led off the 4th with a single and moved to second when Zimmerman singled two batters later. LaRoche came up with another hit, a single to right, and Desmond scored. That’s 7 runs and 10 hits through the game’s first four innings. Who said this offense was struggling?
Meanwhile, Gio Gonzalez was dominant through the first part of the game, including striking out 6 straight batters over the 2nd and 3rd innings. Cincinnati did get on the board in the 4th, Jay Bruce reached on an infield single only to score on a Joey Votto sacrifice fly two batters later.
The Reds would add another in the 5th, as Miguel Cairo scored on a double by Zack Cozart. A few batters later Gonzalez found himself in some trouble, as the bases were loaded with just one out. He was able to work out of the jam, striking out Bruce before getting Scott Rolen to foul out to third. Gonzalez was up to 114 pitches at this point and his day was done, having allowed 2 runs on 5 hits with 4 walks and 9 strikeouts.
It was mostly smooth sailing on both sides from that point on, as neither team scored again until the bottom of the 8th. Ryan Ludwick drove in a run with a single to left before the Reds once again loaded the bases with just one out. Ryan Mattheus was able to induce Chris Heisey into popping out and then he struck out Cozart to get out of the situation without allowing any more runs. This run made it 7-3.
Champ of the Game: With 9 Ks, Gonzalez now has 50 on the season and sits just one behind his teammate Stephen Strasburg for the National League lead. Tonight’s victory pushes his record to 4-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.94 on the season.
Bernadina’s two hits, three RBI, and second home run in as many days earns him an honorable mention.
Chump of the Game: It was bound to happen sooner or later, but tonight just wasn’t Bryce Harper’s night. He went 0 for 5 at the plate, struck out three times, and had an overall frustrating evening.