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Washington Nationals drop opener to Cincinnati Reds, 2-1: Solo HRs off Max Scherzer enough for Cincy...

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The offense did not back up Max Scherzer’s effort tonight in the nation’s capital...

Cincinnati Reds v Washington Nationals Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

Washington’s Nationals didn’t score any runs, or even get a runner in scoring position, with the Cincinnati Reds’ starter Tyler Mahle on the mound, and two solo homers off Nats’ right-hander Max Scherzer were enough for the visiting team to claim a victory in the 1st of 3 in Nationals Park. Final Score: 2-1 Redlegs.

Scherzer vs the Reds: In four starts this month, heading into tonight’s outing, Max Scherzer had been dominant, posting a 1.37 ERA, six walks, 38 Ks, and a .156/.216/.222 line against in 26 13 IP.

Last time out before tonight, the right-hander threw 100 pitches in five innings of work on the mound against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field.

“I did what I had to do to grind through it. They put together some good ABs. They were able to run my pitch count up,” Scherzer said of the relatively brief outing.

Tonight in the nation’s capital, going up against the visiting Reds, Scherzer retired the first six batters he faced on 26 pitches, striking out four, but pitch No. 27, a 94 MPH fastball in to shortstop Kyle Farmer, went out to left for Cincinnati’s first hit and run of the game, 1-0.

An error by Kyle Schwarber on a Nick Castellanos’ line drive to left field, allowed the runner to turn a double into (effectively) a triple, but Scherzer bucked down, struck the next two batters out, and completed a 15-pitch fourth at 54 pitches overall, with seven Ks from a total of 14 batters faced.

A leadoff single and one-out walk in the top of the fifth put two on for pitcher Tyler Mahle, who promptly sent a grounder to third to start an inning-ending 5-3 DP.

Eugenio Suárez hit the second solo shot off Scherzer on a 1-1 changeup in the first at bat of the sixth, sending a homer over the out-of-town scoreboard to make it 2-0 Reds.

Scherzer returned to the mound in the top of the seventh and worked around a one-out HBP in a 17-pitch frame which ended with a pickoff of the runner who reached base.

Max Scherzer’s Line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 Ks, 2 HRs, 107 P, 67 S, 4/4 GO/FO.

Mahle vs the Nats: Reds’ right-hander Tyler Mahle posted a 1.75 ERA and .159/.267/.250 line against in five starts and 25 23 IP in April, but two rough starts in May, including his last before tonight, left him with a 7.45 ERA and a .329/.375/.610 line in 19 13 IP in May before tonight.

Mahle, a 2013 7th Round pick by the Reds, gave up seven hits, two walks, and seven earned runs in just two innings on the mound last time out, in what ended up a 19-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

“Losing sucks,” Mahle said, as quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer, after that loss, “and then losing like that is even worse.”

Looking to bounce back tonight, Mahle got off to a strong start, working around a two-out walk in the first and completing three scoreless and hitless on 46 pitches, as the Reds got out to a 1-0 lead.

Josh Bell, who took the walk in the first, singled with one down in the fourth for the first hit of the game for the home team, but he was forced out on Kyle Schwarber grounder out to second base, and Schwarber was stranded at the end of a 20-pitch frame which left Mahle at 66 pitches total after four scoreless.

Mahle worked around a one-out single by Yan Gomes in a scoreless, 16-pitch fifth which left him at 82 total, and he came out for the sixth with a 2-0 lead, but was lifted after giving up a one-out single by Juan Soto...

Tyler Mahle’s Line: 5.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 Ks, 94 P, 56 S, 9/4 GO/FO.

W/ RISP: Coming into tonight’s game, with some help from the Orioles, and the other clubs they’ve played recently, the Nationals were improving with runners in scoring position, as a section in the team’s pregame notes mentioned:

“Over the last 11 games, Washington’s lineup is hitting .298 (34-for-114) with runners in scoring position...This is good for fifth in the National League over this stretch and has improved Washington’s overall average with RISP from .208 on May 13 to .236 entering play on Tuesday.”

Unfortunately for the Nationals, they didn’t put a runner in scoring position through five in tonight’s matchup with Tyler Mahle and the Reds. Maybe they’d do better against the Reds’ bullpen?

DOOOO!:

Bullpen Action: Tejay Antone took over for the Reds with a runner on first and one out in the sixth, and got an inning-ending 4-6-3 DP out of Josh Bell on the first pitch he threw. Still 2-0 Reds.

Antone came back out in the bottom of the seventh and retired the side in order.

Wander Suero took over for the Nationals in the top of the eighth and struck out two in a 12-pitch, 1-2-3 frame.

Antone made it 2 23 scoreless in relief when he worked around a one-out walk to Andrew Stevenson in the bottom of the eighth.

Sam Clay got the top of the ninth inning, and the first two runners reached, on a single by Nick Castellanos and a walk to Tyler Naquin, but the lefty got a 6-4-3 DP out of pinch hitter Scott Heineman, and got out No. 3 on a swinging K from Tucker Barnhart.

Amir Garrett came on for the save opportunity, and gave up a one-out solo home run by Josh Bell, who hit a 95 MPH 3-2 fastball out to left to get the Nationals on the board, 2-1.

Garrett got the second out, and the Reds went to the pen again for Lucas Sims vs Starlin Castro, and Castro grounded out to end the game.

That was it for the Nats...

Final Score: 2-1 Reds

Nationals now 20-24