With each of the Washington Nationals’ first four home series of the season resulting in sweeps, it would have been easy for Nationals fans to assume Washington had Sunday’s series finale against Cincinnati in the bag, especially with Nationals left-hander Ross Detwiler on the hill, he of the 1.38 ERA coming in.
But it was the other lefty that stole the show. Reds rookie Tony Cingrani fanned 11 Nationals over six frames, including four in one inning, and allowed just two hits to lead Cincinnati to a 5-2 win over Washington at Nationals Park, allowing the Reds to avoid being swept in the four-game set and sending the Nationals out on the road with a bit of a sour taste.
It was a little bit of death by paper cut for Detwiler, who allowed 11 hits over his five innings but only one for extra bases. Unfortunately for the Nationals, the Reds were able to bunch some hits together and make up somewhat for their back-to-back one-hit showings earlier in the series.
Bunching hits was something the Nationals couldn’t do at all against Cingrani, a 23-year-old making only his third big league start. But Washington did have a couple of opportunities to dent the scoreboard.
It was already 4-0 Cincinnati by the time the Nationals came to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning, with no baserunners to that point. Denard Span changed that, albeit inadvertently, reaching on a wild pitch after striking out. Danny Espinosa then double to give Washington two men in scoring position with no out for Bryce Harper. But it wasn’t Harper’s day against Cingrani, as the rookie fanned Harper for the first of two times in the game ahead of a walk to Jayson Werth. With the bases loaded, Cingrani whiffed Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond to rack up the rare, four-strikeout inning.
One inning later, Reds left fielder Xavier Paul dropped a fly ball off the bat of Span, but Anthony Rendon, running from first with two outs, hesitated before being sent home and ended up being thrown out at the plate easily.
After Cingrani left the game, Washington was able to break through against the Reds bullpen, with Kurt Suzuki and Desmond coming up with RBI doubles in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. But in between, Henry Rodgriguez gave the Nationals first run back, walking three Reds in a row with one out, loading the bases and prompting a call to the bullpen. Ryan Mattheus induced a sacrifice fly and escaped the inning with no further damage, but any momentum the Nationals might have gained in the seventh was gone.
The Nationals now embark on a seven-game road trip, kicking off with four games in Atlanta starting Monday against the Braves. After being swept at home two weeks ago by the Braves, Washington has a chance to return the favor with Stephen Strasburg (1-4, 3.16 ERA) set to open the set at 7:10 PM against Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (1-0. 5.48).