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Nationals drop 5-2 decision to Reds: Stephen Strasburg exits early with apparent injury

Washington Nationals' starter Stephen Strasburg was one batter into the second when he left tonight's start in Cincinnati. No explanation on the reason yet, but not good news. The Reds won the series opener in Great American Ball Park, 5-2.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

5. FINISH THEM!!!: Stephen Strasburg struggled to put hitters away last time out, against the Philadelphia Phillies in the nation's capital. He didn't make it out of the fourth. Washington's 26-year-old right-hander gave up seven hits, six runs, five earned and one walk in 3 ⅔ innings pitched in Nationals Park, with a number of the Phillies' big hits coming in two strike counts where Strasburg struggled to finish them off.

"I just didn't execute," he told reporters after the 8-1 loss to the Nats' NL East rivals. "I just didn't make the pitches that I was trying to do. Just got to learn from it."

"His stuff is still really good. His velocity is good, the arm speed, the spin rate, all those things that we look into are normal and trending in the right direction." -Mike Rizzo on Strasburg on 106.7 the FAN in D.C.

"I just didn't put guys away," a frustrated Strasburg said.

"I know that he's out there throwing hard, good fastball again, early fastball command was there," Nationals' manager Matt Williams said.

"Just when he got them to two strikes he just couldn't put them away. So, that happens sometimes. Today was just outside the strike zone or up in the strike zone, or actually not throwing it where he wanted to with two strikes. It happens."

"It's frustrating," Strasburg admitted. "I'm not pitching to my ability and just got to keep grinding."

While working through his rough stretch, Strasburg said he was trying to remain confident.

"It's definitely something that I've never experienced before," he said. "And I think it's a test. It's a test for me. And I'm going to look at it that way and I'm not going to quit, I'm going to keep going."

Strasburg took the mound for his tenth start of the season tonight with a 6.50 ERA, a 3.64 FIP, 13 walks (2.64 BB/9) and 45 Ks (9.14 K/9) in 44 ⅓ IP this season, over which opposing hitters have a .321/.371/.482 line.

He was pitching in Great American Ball Park for the third time in his career after giving up nine runs in 11 IP in the previous two outings (7.36 ERA) in which Cincinnati Reds' hitters put up a .320/.382/.380 line against him.

One out in, Strasburg was down 1-0 after Joey Votto took a 97 mph 2-2 fastball to center for a solo home run that just cleared the fence. Todd Frazier singled to left in the next at bat, but was doubled up on a grounder to first base by Jay Bruce. 10-pitch first.

After a leadoff walk to Brayan Pena in the second, Strasburg was visited on the mound by manager Matt Williams and trainer Lee Kuntz after stretching his neck and rolling his shoulder throughout the at bat and he left the game at that point... Not good.

Stephen Strasburg's Line: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HR, 16 P, 8 S, 1/1 GO/FO.

4. DEE-sclafani: Cincinnati Reds' right-hander Anthony DeSclafani, 25, was acquired in the 2-for-1 trade that sent Mat Latos to the Miami Marlins last winter. He took the mound tonight in Great American Ball Park with a streak of four straight losses going which stretched back to April 26th.

Over that stretch of six starts, DeSclafani was (0-4) with the Reds 1-5, and the Freehold, NJ-born, University of Florida-educated starter had a 5.23 ERA, 19 walks (5.52 BB/9) and 24 Ks (6.97 K/9) in 31 IP, in which opposing hitters had a .269/.364/.445 line against him.

DeSclafani won two of his first three starts before that stretch, however, so he took the mound tonight in the Reds' home park with a (2-4) record, a 3.46 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 23 walks (3.98 BB/9) and 40 Ks (6.92 K/9) in 52 IP overall, in which he held opposing hitters to a .216/.301/.347 line.

DeSclafani was winless at home in Ohio, however, going (0-2) in four starts before tonight's with a 5.40 ERA and a .288/.363/.488 line against in GABP, as opposed to his (2-2) mark in five outings outside of Cincinnati in which he had a 2.25 ERA and a .164/.256/.245 line against.

In his first career start vs the Nationals tonight, after 3 ⅔ scoreless IP in relief vs the Nats for the Marlins last season, the 6'1'' righty with a 92.2 mph four-seamer, 91.6 mph two-seamer, slider (85.7), change (85.2) and curve (76.2) got off to a somewhat rocky start with Ian Desmond and Yunel Escobar singling with one down, but both runners were stranded at the end of a scoreless 16-pitch frame.

A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 second left DeSclafani at 26 pitches. Three ground ball outs got the Reds' starter threw a quick, 14-pitch, 1-2-3 third. 40 pitches total after three. Yunel Escobar singled to start the fourth, but was doubled up on a Bryce Harper grounder to second. Ryan Zimmerman's groundout to short ended another quick frame. Eight-pitch inning, 48 total.

Wilson Ramos doubled to center to start the fifth, and one out later Michael Taylor walked to put two on in front of Taylor Jordan, who dropped a bunt down the third base line that died in the grass. Single. Bases loaded. Denard Span grounded to first and into a force at home for out no.2, but a swinging bunt by Ian Desmond brought in the Nats' first run of the game, 1-1 after four and a half. 25-pitch frame. 73 total.

Ryan Zimmerman doubled to right-center with one down in the Nats' sixth and scored from second on a single up the middle by Wilson Ramos. 2-1 Nationals. 12-pitch sixth, 85 overall.

Anthony DeSclafani's Line: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 85 P, 53 S, 10/3 GO/FO.

3. Let's Go Streaking: Before he stepped to the plate tonight, Bryce Harper was 30 for 80 (.375/.500/.938) over 23 games in the month of May with four doubles, a triple and 13 HRs, 20 walks and 16 Ks in his last 100 PAs, over which he'd gone from a .275/.433/.525 line (not bad) to a .331/.470/.475 line (better) on the year.

He'd already set the Nationals' record for home runs in a month, (2005-present) topping Alfonso Soriano's 12 in May of '06 on Wednesday night in Chicago when he took Cubs' lefty Jon Lester deep.

Ian Desmond started the series in Cincinnati with a 12-game hit streak, the second-longest of his career, over which he was 17 for 49 (.347/.385/.592) with six doubles and two home runs in 53 PAs, taking him from a .217/.287/.326 line on April 30th to .257/.305/.406 on the year after a 3 for 5 night in the series finale in Wrigley Field.

Could both hard-hitting Nats keep the hot streaks going in GABP?

Desmond extended his hit streak to 13-straight with a one-out single in the first. (18 for 50).

Harper K'd looking with runners on the corners and one out in the first, though he objected to Jerry Meals called third strike. He was 0 for 3 after a double play grounder the second time up and a lineout to center in his third at bat.

Tony Cingrani hit Harper in his fourth at bat in the seventh, Harper didn't appreciate that and after a staredown and slow walk to first he got into it a bit with Joey Votto.

Desmond ended the night 2 for 5 with an RBI and two Ks.

Harper went 1 for 4 with a HBP and a single off Aroldis Chapman.

2. Turning Point(s): A 97 mph 2-2 fastball from Stephen Strasburg to Joey Votto ended up in the center field seats in Great American Ball Park for a first inning home run that put the Reds up 1-0 early, but the big turning point came in the bottom of the second, when Strasburg looked uncomfortable on the mound as he walked catcher Brayan Pena and left the game immediately after the at bat. No word on what was wrong. Begin speculation...

• The Nationals "rallied" to tie it up in the top of the fifth, with the rally in quotes because they actually scored a run on a double, walk and two swinging bunts, but it counts, 1-1 after five.

• Ryan Zimmerman connected for his 12th double of 2015 with one down in the sixth, and scored from second base when Wilson Ramos sent a grounder up the middle in the next at bat.

The play at the plate was close, but Zimmerman avoided Brayan Pena's tag, sliding towards the front of the dish and reaching around to touch home for a 2-1 lead.

• Taylor Jordan was rolling along until he issued a one-out walk to Marlon Byrd in the Reds' sixth. A double to center, sac fly and RBI single followed in the next three at bats as Cincinnati rallied for a 3-2 lead. 4-2 after six.

1. The Wrap-Up: Taylor Jordan took over on the mound for Stephen Strasburg in the second and completed a scoreless frame.

Jordan worked around a leadoff single by Zack Cozart and a two-out walk to Jay Bruce in the third for a scoreless 24-pitch frame that left him at 33 pitches.

Anthony DeSclafani lined a single to right with two down in the Reds' fourth, but he was stranded when Billy Hamilton lined to center to end the home-half of the inning. 14-pitch fourth, 47 total.

Zack Cozart singled to left to start the Reds' fifth, and took second on a fly to deep center by Joey Votto, but he was stranded there two outs later. Four scoreless for Jordan on 61 pitches.

Marlon Byrd walked with one down in the Reds' half of the sixth, took third base on a line drive double to right by Skip Schumaker and scored on a sac fly by pinch hitter Brandon Phillips in spite of a strong throw in by Michael Taylor in left. 2-2 game. Billy Hamilton drove Schumaker in with a bloop single to center to make it 3-2.

Aaron Barrett took over with the Reds up by a run and gave up an RBI single by Zack Cozart, 4-2.

Jumbo Diaz took over on the mound for the Reds in the seventh and gave up a line drive single to center by Denard Span. Ian Desmond and Yunel Escobar K'd swinging for the first two outs of the frame, though Span took second on Escobar's K. Bryce Harper stepped in with a runner on second against new pitcher Tony Cingrani and got a fastball in the numbers on the first pitch.

Harper didn't appreciate it and took his time getting to first, which apparently angered Joey Votto. A lively, spirited discussion ensued, though calmer heads prevailed, whatever that means, and Ryan Zimmerman grounded out in the next at bat.

Todd Frazier put a hanging slider from Blake Treinen in the upper deck in left in the first at bat of the Reds' seventh, 5-2.

Three walks from Cingrani loaded the bases with two out and Ian Desmond due up. J.J. Hoover came on for the Reds and threw a 2-2 fastball by the Nats' shortstop for a swinging strike three.

Matt Thornton threw a quick, scoreless bottom of the eighth.

Aroldis Chapman came out for the ninth with a 5-2 lead and gave up a one-out single to center by Bryce Harper, but nothing else. 5-2 Reds final.

Nationals now 28-20