The Sunday afternoon rubber match and series finale of Washington and Cincinnati's early season matchup featured each team's respective aces on the mound for a 1:10 pm EST start in Great American Ballpark. Stephen Strasburg, coming off a dominant outing on Opening Day at home in the nation's capital against Miami. Johnny Cueto, coming off a nine strikeout performance against the LA Angels here at home in Ohio. It didn't start as a pitchers' duel, however...
The Reds' 27-year-old right-hander gave up a leadoff single by Nationals' leadoff man, Denard Span, but erased the runner when Jayson Werth grounded into a 6-4-3 DP. 20-year-old Nats' outfielder Bryce Harper was 9 for 22 on the year, and 3 for 10 one at bat into the third game of this series after he singled through short with two down, but Cincy shortstop Zack Cozart fielded a Ryan Zimmerman grounder and threw to second for the force and the end of a quick, nine-pitch first by Cueto.
Strasburg, 24, got one out with one pitch in the bottom of the inning when Shin-Soo Choo tried to ambush the Nats' starter on a first-pitch fastball. Choo flew out to right. Xavier Paul rolled over an 0-2 curve and sent a weak roller toward first that got by Strasburg and was scored an infield hit. A low 3-1 pitch in the next at bat put Joey Votto on, on the first walk allowed this year by the Nats' right-handed starter. An infield single by Brandon Phillips followed that Ryan Zimmerman dove for and got to, but fumbled when he went to throw to second. Bases loaded, one out, and Reds' right fielder Jay Bruce went down for an 80 mph 2-2 curve and lined it to left-center for an opposite field double and an early 2-0 lead. A groundout to second scored the third run of the game, 3-0, and Strasburg was up to 23 pitches when Zack Cozart flew to center to end the first.
Ian Desmond doubled with one down in the second, collecting his second two-base hit of 2013 when he lined an 0-2 fastball from Cueto off the left field fence. Danny Espinosa took the Reds' starter's first walk in front of the Nationals' catcher Kurt Suzuki.
As Davey Johnson's said several times this Spring, whichever catcher he goes with is fine. "Either way I go I'm going to be a genius, because they're both great," Johnson said last week week, and it worked out that way early today. After Wilson Ramos hit two home runs in Saturday's game, the skipper stuck to his plan of alternating backstops and Suzuki came through with a three-run blast to left for his first hit of the season and a tie game in Cincinnati. 3-3 in GABP. A walk by Denard Span and a two-out single by Jayson Werth set Bryce Harper up with two on and two out, but a groundout to second ended the frame after 30 pitches by Cueto.
An 0-2 change inside got Ryan Hanigan swinging for the out no.1 of the second and K no.1 for Strasburg. Johnny Cueto hit an 0-1 fastball to Chad Tracy at first. Two quick outs, but Shin-Soo-Choo disrupted the flow with a two-out single to center off the Nationals' starter. Xavier Paul collected the second-straight two-out single, lining to center as well, but a filthy, floating, 1-2 change outside got Joey Votto swinging to end a 17-pitch inning with the score still tied. 3-3. 40 pitches overall.
That change via CBSSports.com's Dayn Perry:
Johnny Cueto needed just 12 pitches to retire the Nationals in order in the top of the third, leaving the right-hander at 51 total. Chad Tracy, in at first with Adam LaRoche sitting, bobbled a weak grounder toward first and tossed to the covering pitcher a step too late to get Jay Bruce. E:3. A single through short put two on for Zack Cozart, whose weak groundout to short moved both runners up. An intentional walk loaded the bases in front of Johnny Cueto, who grounded into an inning-ending force at second for out no.3. A 20-pitch inning had Strasburg at 60 after three.
Kurt Suzuki was 2 for 2 today with a double and a three-run home run after he hustled out of the box and beat a throw in from left-center for a two-base hit with one down in the fourth. Cueto threw a two-strike heater by Stephen Strasburg on his 65th pitch of the game, collecting his second K of the day. A passed ball with Denard Span up moved Suzuki over to third and another walk by the Nats' center fielder put two on for Werth, who K'd chasing a 1-2 slider inside. Still tied. Strasburg "missed" Inside with a 3-2 fastball to Shin-Soo Chin in the first at bat of the Reds' fourth. One-out later Choo stole second with Joey Votto at the plate, but a 1-2 fastball got the hard-hitting first baseman swinging for out no.2 and K no.3, and Brandon Phillips' pop to short right ended the fourth. 13-pitch inning for Strasburg, 73 after four.
Harper, Zimmerman and Tracy went down in order in the top of the fifth, with Harp and Tracy striking out for Cueto's fourth and fifth Ks.The 12-pitch inning had the Reds' starter at 89 pitches total after 5.0 IP. After a weak groundout by Jay Bruce, Stephen Strasburg issued his fourth walk of the game, putting Todd Frazier on in front of Zack Cozart. A full-count fastball up high at 95 got Cozart swinging for out no.2 and K no.3 and an 0-2 change to Ryan Hanigan got the Reds' catcher swinging for out no.3 and K no.4. 91 pitches for Strasburg after a 19-pitch fifth. Still a 3-3 game.
Danny Espinosa ripped a low liner by first for a one-out double in the top of the sixth that the ball boy in right played as if it was foul. Ground-rule double. Two outs later, Espinosa was stranded at second when Cueto struck Stephen Strasburg out to end the top of the inning. Reds' pinch hitter Derrick Robinson singled by third for his first big league hit in the bottom of the sixth. Strasburg was up to 98 pitches when Shin-Soo Choo lined a 95 mph 2-1 fastball to center for single that sent Robinson around to third. A grounder to second off Xavier Paul's bat looked tailor-made for a DP, but Danny Espinosa threw home instead, and too late to get the speedy Robinson. 4-3 Reds. Still no outs. Strasburg's 107th pitch was a 3-2 change Joey Votto rolled over, grounding weakly back to the mound but advancing both runners in scoring position for Brandon Phillips, whose single to left made it a 5-3 game. Strasburg was out there after 114 pitches.
Ryan Mattheus took over with runners on first and third and surrendered an infield single by Jay Bruce that scored Xavier Paul to make it 6-3. A walk to Todd Frazier loaded the bases. Ryan Zimmerman took an out at home on a grounder to third by Zack Cozart for out no.2, and a Ryan Hanigan groundout finally ended the sixth.
Strasburg's Line: 5.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 5 Ks, 114 P, 73 S, 9/2 GO/FO
Sean Marshall retired the Nationals in order in a 14-pitch seventh. Ryan Mattheus gave up a two-out single by pinch hitter Jack Hannahan in the bottom of the frame, then walked Joey Votto to put two on with two down before striking Brandon Phillips out to end the seventh. Still 6-3 Reds. Ryan Zimmerman was 0 for 4 today and 0 for 11 in Great American Ballpark after lining out to Joey Votto to start the eighth. After Chad Tracy K'd swinging, Ian Demsond flew to right and Reds' reliever Jonathan Broxton kept the three-run lead in tact through seven and a half. Henry Rodriguez set the Reds down in order in the bottom of the eighth in a quick, nine-pitch inning, and the Reds brought Aroldis Chapman out to try to seal the series win.
Kurt Suzuki was 3 for 4 today after bouncing a one-out double off the left field wall, but Aroldis Chapman got Tyler Moore looking with a 99 mph 0-2 fastball and Denard Span K'd swinging through a 101 mph heater to end the game.
Reds win, 6-3 final.
Nationals now 4-2.
• Note: Check out our appearance on the DC Sports Beat with Mitch Malasky later tonight, at 7:20 pm EST, you can listen online at www.weactradio.com