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Reds' Johnny Cueto throws complete game shutout, Max Scherzer struggles in Nationals' loss

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Cincinnati Reds' right-hander Johnny Cueto struck out eleven batters in a 5-0 win over the Washington Nationals. Nats' starter Max Scherzer struggled in his shortest outing of the season.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Reds' right-hander Johnny Cueto has averaged 92.1 mph with his four-seam fastball this season and 92.5 with his two-seamer, but as Washington Nationalsmanager Matt Williams explained before tonight's game, the 29-year-old, "... can reach back for 96 or 97 when he wants to have it, so he reminds me of Max [Scherzer] in that regard, where he pitches at a certain level for the majority of the game, but if he really needs to reach back it's always there."

"He hides the ball well... he'll turn his back to the hitter and hides it really well, he's got great offspeed pitches and can throw any of them for strikes at any time." -Matt Williams on Reds' right-hander Johnny Cueto

Cueto averaged 92.3 mph with his four-seam fastball on Tuesday night in the nation's capital, 93 with his two-seamer and hit 95.5 with both. Add in the deception on top of that and he's a difficult pitcher to figure out.

"He hides the ball well," Williams said before Cueto's struck out 11 in a 122-pitch complete game shutout.

"He's developed into that type of pitcher where he'll turn his back to the hitter and hides it really well, he's got great offspeed pitches and can throw any of them for strikes at any time."

So how good was the Reds' starter in Cincinnati's 5-0 win?

"Obviously pretty good," Williams said. "Threw the ball where he wanted to, kept the guys off-balance, pitched well, only gave up two hits."

The promised pitchers' duel with Scherzer never materialized.

The Reds got to the Nationals' ace early, scoring two in the first on an RBI double by Joey Votto and a run-scoring triple by Jay Bruce.

The two runs in the first were just the second and third Scherzer's allowed in the first innings of his 17 starts so far this season.

"Just don't think it was his night tonight. First inning got him a little bit, left some balls middle of the plate, and it just wasn't his night tonight..." -Matt Williams on Max Scherzer vs the Reds

After doubling on an 0-1 fastball up and out over the plate in the first, Votto homered off Scherzer in the third, taking a 94 mph 1-1 heater up high inside to right for a no-doubter.

Two more scored in the fifth with Votto driving in a run with a single and Todd Frazier connecting for an RBI sac fly that made it 5-0.

One batter, and a single later, Scherzer was done for the night, after just 4 ⅔ innings pitched over which he gave up seven hits and five earned runs.

"'I just didn't have it today,'" Scherzer told reporters, including MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr.

"'I just missed my location on a few pitches to the wrong hitters and they made me pay for it. They're a great team. They've got great hitters. When you have a game like today, they make you pay for it.'"

The five runs were more than Scherzer allowed in his previous four starts and 34 ⅓ innings on the mound.

"Just don't think it was his night tonight," Williams said. "First inning got him a little bit, left some balls middle of the plate, and it just wasn't his night tonight, he's had his nights -- a lot lately, but tonight wasn't."

"It happens," he told reporters. "There [are] pitchers that are the best in the league, best in baseball, that sometimes give up runs, it happens. We're not going to put too much emphasis on it, I know he'll be ready for his next one."