Reds Avoid Four-Game Sweep, Nats Lose 5-2

The Nationals had their first all around ugly game of the series against the Reds on Sunday afternoon. They still walked away from the game with a series win and a 4-3 season series win against the Reds. Ross Detwiler’s worst performance of the season was further exacerbated by poor defense and a lethargic offense in the 5-2 loss.

The Reds got to Detwiler early in the first inning. After striking out Shin-Soo Choo to start the game, Zack Cozart, Joey Votto, and Brandon Phillips logged back-to-back-to-back hits, a single, a double, and a two-RBI single, respectively. All of the contact was solid off of Detwiler’s fastball and sinker, which he threw exclusively, as the Reds got out to an early 2-0 lead. Detwiler did manage to strike out the side in the process.

The level of play got uglier in the third inning, but not before Anthony Rendon made a great play charging a slow roller to retire Corky Miller to start the inning. The pitcher, Tony Cingrani, shot a grounder down the left field line that bounced right off the third base bag, preventing Rendon for making another nice play.

Rendon had another opportunity on a Choo grounder, making a perfect throw to Danny Espinosa to start a double play, but Espinosa flat out dropped the ball and all runners were safe. After a Cozart walk to load the bases, Votto served up another hit, a single, driving in Cingrani from third. With the bases still loaded with one out, Brandon Phillips hit one hard at Adam LaRoche, who caught it smoothly and threw to Ian Desmond for a 3-6 double play to get Detwiler out of another jam.

In the fourth, the Reds played some small ball, starting with a Corky Miller single that ricochet off of Detwiler allowing him to reach base. He moved to third by Cingrani and Choo, and then Rendon made an incredible stop on a Cozart grounder, but his throw pulled LaRoche off the bag, allowing Miller to score. To end the inning, Denard Span made another great catch similar to the grab on Saturday, crashing into the visiting bullpen’s wall, once again against Joey Votto. That catch was the last out that Detwiler saw on the mound after five innings of disappointing work.

The Nats had their first offensive opportunity of the game in the fourth, and it couldn’t have gone more poorly. Span reached first after striking out due to a wild pitch, and Espinosa laced a double into the right field corner for a runners on second and third with no outs opportunity for Bryce Harper. Harper inexplicably tried to bunt for a hit and then swung at a pitch at his chest to strike out. Jayson Werth then walked to load the bases, and Desmond and LaRoche both struck out to end the inning. Because Span reached first on a strikeout, Cingrani recorded a rare four strikeout inning.

The Nats scored their first run of the game in the seventh inning set up by an Ian Desmond leadoff single. After another LaRoche strikeout, Rendon singled, and Kurt Suzuki doubled to the left field corner, scoring Desmond and narrowing the Reds lead to a 4-1 margin. With runners at second and third with just one out, neither Steve Lombardozzi nor Denard Span were able to get them home and the inning ended more quietly than it should have.

Henry Rodriguez entered in the eighth, and things got hairy quickly. He retired Xavier Paul, and proceeded to walk the next three batters to load the bases. Ryan Mattheus game in to clean up his mess, and did so admirably, only giving up one run on a sacrifice fly by Zack Cozart and expanding their lead to 5-1. Ultimately, Mattheus pitched brilliantly in one and two-thirds innings of relief.

In the eighth, the Nats tacked on another run after Harper walked and later scored on a Desmond double. Choo attempted to track the ball down in shallow left center, but it bounced off his glove and hit the turf, which helped the Nats narrow the margin to 5-2. That set up a save opportunity for Aroldis Chapman.

In perhaps his most impressive at bat in the majors, Rendon took Chapman to a full count and drew a leadoff walk. Unfortunately, Suzuki and Jhonatan Solano, who pinch hit in the pitcher’s spot, popped out, and Span struck out to end the game.

The Nats still won the series, and they have a huge series with the Braves in Atlanta coming up this week. They’ll try to get back some of their dignity after getting swept at home, which contributed to the beginning of their extended April slump. They’ll have their top three pitchers on the mound to help them do just that.

Joe Drugan

About Joe Drugan

Joe is the Managing Editor of The Nats Blog and host of the Nats Talk On The Go podcast. He's been blogging about the Nationals since 2010 and with The Nats Blog since 2011.