After 5 1/3 IP in Washington, over which he struck out six and gave up six hits and eight runs, six earned, the 27-year-old right-hander's ERA was up to 1.86 on the year and his four-game winning streak had been snapped.
The Nationals scored two unearned runs in the bottom of the third when Nats' starter Doug Fister reached on an error by Reds' first baseman Todd Frazier and scored from first on a throwing error by third baseman Ramon Santiago on a Denard Span bunt. Span took two bases when Santiago rushed and sailed the throw to first after fielding the dribbler. Anthony Rendon's sac fly to center brought Span in from third for the second run.
In the sixth, the Nationals sent seven batters to the plate against Cueto, who let six of the seven reach base on singles or HBPs with Jayson Werth and Tyler Moore driving in one run each with their hits and Danny Espinosa doubling in two more on what ended up being the Reds' starter's final pitch of the night.
• Cueto's line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 8 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 6 Ks, 94 P, 55 S, 6/3 GO/FO.
The two runners Cueto left on scored when Span doubled for his fourth hit in four at bats with two down and Reds' lefty Sean Marshall on the mound.
"It feels like home. It feels like I've pitched here before." -- Doug Fister on pitching at Nats Park— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) May 21, 2014
Nationals' manager Matt Williams said that his hitters beat a very good pitcher.
"All of his great stats coming in were evident tonight," the first-year skipper said. "He lost command a little bit late, but he can reach back for 97 when he wants to and pitches at 90-93 with all of his pitches for strikes. I think we took advantage of a couple of misplays early on and then got to him in the last inning. You just have to stick with it. That's the secret to this game. Cause you never know what can happen, and he's as advertised. He's throwing the ball really well."
Doug Fister gave up a run in the first when Todd Frazier drove Skip Schumaker in with an RBI single after the Reds' right fielder reached on a one-out double to center field.
A throwing error by Danny Espinosa put runners on first and second, but Fister struck Chris Heisey out to end the threat and limit the damage. He then proceeded to retire 14 of the next 15 batters and 12 in a row between Ramon Santiago's one-out single in the second and Brandon Phillips' one-out single in the sixth. Fister stranded two at the end of a scoreless sixth, but the Reds scored a run on a sac fly by Billy Hamilton in the seventh.
Schumaker groundout out to end the seventh with the 12th groundout of the game for the Nats' 30-year-old right-hander, who earned his first win for Washington in his first start of the year in Nationals Park.
• Fister's Line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 Ks, 109 P, 72 S, 12/3 GO/FO.
"We pushed him a little bit tonight to get him through his last inning, but no issues," Williams said after Fister's third start since coming off a DL stint for a minor right lat strain. "He felt good tonight, so nothing lasting from the injury and I think he's well on his way to getting back into the swing of things. He pitched really well."
Both starters worked quickly and mowed hitters down at times.
Cueto retired seven Nationals in a row after Span's leadoff single in the first and eight straight after the back-to-back one-out errors in the third cost him two runs. Span's leadoff single in the sixth started the rally which ended Cueto's night.
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Fister needed just 68 pitches in the first five innings, but he threw 20 in the sixth and 21 more in the seventh before he was done.
"He works fast," Williams said. "He changes speeds. He's aggressive within the strike zone, lets his pitches work for him. He's got great angle. We talked all spring and the beginning of the season about his angle and he's so tall and the ball kind of just fades out of the strike zone sometimes. But he's aggressive, he's not afraid to throw it in there, which is great."
Against Cueto, who started the game with a streak of 12 scoreless innings on the mound, the Nationals focused on finding the right pitch in the right spot since they knew the Reds' right-hander would be throwing strikes.
"He pounds the strike zone," Williams explained when asked about his hitters' approach.
"So you know he's not going to generally be all over the place, so you're going to get strikes to hit so you want to pick one. The problem is he throws many different miles an hour and all of his pitches for strikes. So, pick a side of the plate and be aggressive to that side of the plate was kind of the plan today. So, the guys did good, they played well."
The Nationals' 9-4 win set up today's rubber match at 4:05 pm EDT in the nation's capital.
• We talked about Fister's start, the Nats vs Cueto, Span's big night and more on Nats Nightly: