Sometimes the other team just plays better.
The Reds outmatched the Nationals in every phase of the game today, as Stephen Strasburg allowed six runs in five and one third innings, the defense faltered, and the Nationals (4-2) fell to the Reds (4-2), 6-3.
From the very beginning of the game, Strasburg (L, 1-1) struggled. He loaded the bases with two infield singles and a walk before Jay Bruce hit a two-RBI double and Todd Frazier grounded out to give the Reds an early 3-0 lead. The Nationals immediately struck back against Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto, who finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting last year. Ian Desmond doubled, Danny Espinosa walked, and Kurt Suzuki blasted a ball into the left field bleachers to tie the game at 3 apiece. Suzuki would finish the game 3-4 with three extra base hits, which, on the heels of Wilson Ramos‘ two-homer day, makes for quite an interesting battle for starting catcher.
Strasburg never settled into his groove as the game went on. He allowed two baserunners in each of the second and third innings, and another runner in the fourth and fifth. Everything really came apart in the bottom of the sixth. Cincinnati had runners on first and third with no outs after back to back singles by Derrick Robinson and Shin-Soo Choo when a Xavier Paul grounder came right to Espinosa. Instead of allowing the run to score and trying for a double play, which would have made it 4-3 with the bases empty and two outs, Espinosa instead attempted to nab the speedy Robinson at home and failed, putting runners on first and second with no outs and Joey Votto at bat. Strasburg would get Votto to ground out, moving Paul and Choo over, but after a Brandon Phillips single scored another run, he was relieved by Ryan Mattheus. Mattheus allowed one of his inherited runners to score and managed to put himself in a bases-loaded jam before wriggling out of it. Strasburg’s final line was 5.1 IP, 6 ER, 9 H, 4 BB, 5 K, 114 pitches. His command was off all day, and he allowed lots of baserunners after falling behind in counts. Mattheus would toss a scoreless seventh, and Henry Rodriguez would turn in the only 1-2-3 inning of the day in the eighth.
Cueto struggled just like Strasburg did, but was able to right the ship as the game wore on. He finished with just three earned runs in six innings off seven hits, three walks, and six strikeouts. After he left the game, the Nationals were powerless, as Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, and Aroldis Chapman combined to allow only one hit. Every player besides Suzuki had a mediocre day, as Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Danny Espinosa, and Ian Desmond each mustered one hit. Only Denard Span also had a game of note, going 1-3 with two walks. Meanwhile, six different Reds each reached base at least twice. It was not a good day overall for the Nats, but there are worse things than dropping two of three on the road to another great team.
Next Game: Tuesday v. Chicago (AL).