5. Scherzer vs the Reds: Max Scherzer had a three-start win-streak snapped last time out in a 2-1 loss to the Braves in Atlanta, GA in which he gave up just five hits and two earned runs. He did, however, strike out nine batters in 8 ⅓ innings on the mound in Turner Field before an infield single and chopper over third gave the home team a walk-off win.
In spite of the outcome, Scherzer told reporters after the outing that he was happy he made it through another start without giving up a walk, giving him a streak of 26 ⅓ innings in which he has avoided any free passes.
"I mean that's just the result of attacking early in the count and making sure that you get to two strikes before two balls," he explained.
"When you put yourself in position like that, that keeps you from falling behind where you do let guys get on base. So that's something that I'm extremely proud of, no free passes over here for the past couple games and that just shows you that I'm attacking the zone."
On the year, in his first season in Washington after signing a 7-year/$210M free agent deal this winter, Scherzer had walked just 14 batters (1.06 BB/9) in 16 starts and 118 ⅔ IP over which he'd struck out 139 (10.54 K/9) and posted a 1.82 ERA, a 1.93 FIP and a .179/.212/.278 line against before taking the mound tonight in the second game of three with the Cincinnati Reds in D.C.
The final preparations before #gametime for the #Nats' battery! #TheBuffalo #MadMax pic.twitter.com/WQX6eeRgM3— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 7, 2015
Scherzer's seventeenth outing of the 2015 campaign began with a line drive single to left by Brandon Phillips, who took second base on an error on the throw in from left when Matt den Dekker bounced one in that rolled through Dan Uggla's legs and all the way by first base. Phillips scored when Joey Votto lined an RBI double to left on an 0-1 fastball in the next at bat, 1-0 Reds. Todd Frazier K'd swinging on a 1-2 fastball up high for out no.1, but Jay Bruce stepped in and tripled off the out-of-town scoreboard in right to bring Votto in for a 2-0 lead. 25-pitch frame.
A nine-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Scherzer at 34 total after two. One out into the third, however, he was down 3-0 after Joey Votto homered to right on a 94 mph 1-1 fastball, sending a solo shot into the Nationals' bullpen.
Scherzer's 14-pitch third left him at 48 total after three. A 10-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth him at 58 pitches.
Billy Hamilton doubled off the scoreboard in right with one down in the fifth, and stole third with Brandon Phillips at the plate. Phillips took a slider that didn't break off the brim of his helmet, putting runners on the corners with one out, and Joey Votto lined an RBI single to right on a first-pitch change to bring Hamilton in, 4-0. A sac fly to left by Todd Frazier brought Phillips in, 5-0. A two-out single by Jay Bruce ended Scherzer's night...
• Max Scherzer's Line: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 81 P, 59 S, 2/2 GO/FO.
4. Where will Cueto go?: The Nationals missed 29-year-old Reds' right-hander Johnny Cueto when they visited Great American Ball Park in late May.
He was on the DL with elbow soreness at the time, but returned to Cincinnati's rotation on June 2nd.
#JohnnyBeisbol is ready to take the mound in DC with a 2 run lead. #VoteCueto pic.twitter.com/obKCDx8jcw— #VoteCueto (@Reds) July 7, 2015
Since then, Cueto's gone (2-1) with the Reds 4-2 in six starts over which he's put up a 2.52 ERA, eight walks (1.83 BB/9) and 40 Ks (9.15 K/9) in 39 ⅓ IP over which he's held opposing hitters to a combined .171/.229/.322 line.
In two starts against the Nationals last season, the eight-year veteran was (1-1), giving up six hits and eight runs, six earned, in 5 ⅓ innings in a loss in the nation's capital, and then throwing seven scoreless against Washington when they visited Cincinnati in late July, giving up four hits and three walks but no runs while striking out nine.
"In the middle innings his fastball velocity start to increase," Nats' skipper Matt Williams told reporters after a 1-0 loss to the Reds that day.
"And then beyond that, he has a 95 mph fastball with movement, both sides of the plate and his slider and changeup to go with it, he was pretty good."
Cueto's been pretty good this season as well, with a (5-5) record after fifteen starts, in which he's put up a 2.84 ERA, a 3.25 FIP, 20 walks (1.72 BB/9) and 100 Ks (8.60 K/9) while holding opposing hitters to a combined .196/.247/.349 line in 104 ⅔ IP.
He has, however, put up better numbers at home, with a 1.64 ERA in 49 ⅓ IP in GABP (vs a 3.90 ERA in 55 ⅓ on the road), a 2.90 FIP (vs 3.57) and a .157/.216/.263 line in Cincinnati (vs a .223/.226/.411 line outside of Ohio).
Tonight in the nation's capital, Cueto took the mound in the first with a 2-0 lead. Danny Espinosa reached on a one-out grounder when Joey Votto flat dropped the throw from second and Bryce Harper dumped a pop fly in short left for a single in the next at bat, but both runners were stranded at the end of a 14-pitch frame.
A 13-pitch, 1-2-3 second left Cueto at 27 total after two. He retired the side in order in the third as well, with a nine-pitch frame that left him at 36 overall after three.
Bryce Harper walked to start the Nationals' fourth, but Cueto got a grounder to third out of Wilson Ramos for what looked like a double play until Todd Frazier bobbled it.
Clint Robinson sent a grounder to second in the next at bat that Brandon Phillips fielded. Ramos avoided the tag on the way to second, but stopped there as Phillips threw to first, then got caught in a rundown for out no.2. Dan Uggla's pop to right ended an eleven-pitch frame that left Cueto at 47 total.
Ian Desmond tripled to left to start the Nationals' fifth, but Matt den Dekker and Taylor Jordan K'd looking in the next two at bats and Michael Taylor K'd swinging to end a 25-pitch frame that left Cueto at 72 total after five.
Cueto struck out the first two batters in the fifth, giving him five straight Ks after Desmond's triple, and a groundout to second by Wilson Ramos gave the Reds' right-hander a scoreless 16-pitch frame, and six scoreless on 88 pitches.
• A 12-pitch, 1-2-3 seventh ended with back-to-back Ks. 100 pitches 10 Ks. An 11-pitch, 1-2-3 eighth left the Reds' starter at 111 pitches. 11 Ks.
Cueto came back out for the ninth and retired the Nationals in order again.
• Johnny Cueto's Line: 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 Ks, 122 P, 84 S, 10/2 GO/FO.
3. Random Game Notes: With the Reds' win in last night's series opener, they took the season series from the Nats, improving to 4-0 after sweeping the series in Great American Ball park in May. That sweep was their first against the Nationals since August of 2011.
It's 7/7, so be sure to tune in to our game tonight at 7pm! pic.twitter.com/qG8ufONy14— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 7, 2015
• Todd Frazier's 50 extra base hits so far this season are the second-most ever by a Red before the All-Star Break, behind only legendary catcher Johnny Bench, who hit 54 before the Break in 1970.
• Reds' center fielder Billy Hamilton currently leads the majors in stolen bases with 41 in 47 attempts, but he has to get on base first to steal one. Hamilton was 0 for 4 in the series opener. He doubled in the fifth inning tonight and stole no.42, taking third before scoring on an RBI single by Joey Votto.
.@BillyHamilton has now tied @EricDavis3344 for most stolen bases Pre-All Star Break with 42. #RunBillyRun— #VoteCueto (@Reds) July 8, 2015
• For fun with arbitrary end points, the Nationals, since June 19, have a 12-4 record, the best in the majors, and they have outscored opponents 68-23 over that stretch.
• Elias Sports issued the following information this afternoon: The Nationals' pitchers have allowed two walks or fewer in their last 19 games, the second-longest streak of games with two or less since 1900, behind only the 1904 Boston Red Sox, who did it for 27 straight games.
• Denard Span and Yunel Escobar left last night's game with back and hamstring issues, respectively, and neither of them was in the lineup for the second of two with Cincinnati tonight.
• Three of Nats' first baseman Clint Robinson's four home runs this season have given the Nationals a lead.
2. Turning Point(s): A sloppy play and error set the Reds up with a runner in scoring position early in tonight's game. Brandon Phillips singled to left in the first at bat, and took second when Matt den Dekker bounced a throw in that rolled right through Dan Uggla's legs and by first base. Joey Votto stepped in next and lined an 0-1 fastball to right that brought Phillips around for a 1-0 lead. An RBI triple by Jay Bruce brought Votto around and the Reds took a 2-0 lead after a half-inning in D.C.
• Joey Votto went through 19 games and 85 plate appearances without an extra base hit before tonight's game, but after his home run in the third he was 2 for 2 with two extra base hits and the Reds were up 3-0 on the Nationals.
Joey Votto was really mean to that baseball: http://t.co/zNuQIrevDj #Crushed pic.twitter.com/biWUGYmsEI— #FinalVote (@MLB) July 8, 2015
• Votto was 3 for 3 with a double, home run and RBI single after he drove Billy Hamilton in from third with a line drive single in the fifth. 4-0.
1. The Wrap-Up: Taylor Jordan took over on the mound for the Nationals with two on and two out in the fifth and got one out with one pitch, but it was 5-0 Reds after four and a half.
Jordan came back out for the sixth, and worked around a one-out walk for a scoreless inning of work.
Brandon Phillips reached on an error in the first at bat of the seventh, but he was stranded at first three outs later as Taylor Jordan completed another scoreless frame, then came back out for the eighth as well. 12-pitch frame. Still 5-0 Reds.
Sammy Solis returned to the mound in the majors in the top of the ninth with a 1-2-3 frame.
Reds 5-0 for fifth straight over Nationals.
Nationals now 46-38