Game 91 Review- Nationals 14 Reds 4

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Another day, another outburst by the Nationals offense against an over-matched Reds pitching staff.  This time it was National League leading hitter Daniel Murphy doing the key damage as Washington routed Cincinnati 14-4 for its third straight victory coming out of the All-Star break.

NATIONALS 14 Reds 4

Record- 55-36, 9.5 games ahead of Atlanta in the National League East

WP- Roark (7-6)  LP- Bailey (2-3)

HR- Murphy, Was 2(16), Lind, Was (7), Rendon, Was (19), Lobaton, Was (3)

There are slow-pitch softball teams who don’t put up the runs at the level the Washington Nationals have this season.  The Cincinnati Reds are the latest team to run into the Nats’ buzz saw of an attack, falling on Sunday by a 14-4 score. Here’s a look at the key players and numbers from the Nats’ third straight win this weekend and their fourth victory in a row overall.

STARS OF THE GAME

Daniel Murphy is a student of hitting who works at his craft with a dedication matched by few.  Over the past few seasons Murphy has not only been a student, he’s been a teacher of lessons that have been tough to stomach for opposing pitchers.   The Cincinnati Reds know that all too well after today, as Murphy went 3 for 4 with two home runs and five RBI to lead the Nats to an easy win.  The two homer game was the second of Murphy’s time in DC, with the first coming against, of course, the Mets in June of 2016.   Murphy’s day lifted his National League leading batting average to .348, 20 points ahead of teammate Bryce Harper’s .328 mark.  Only Houston’s Jose Altuve, at .350, has a better average than Murphy among all qualified Major Leaguers.

While Murphy, Harper, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman are typically the Nats’ hitters doing most of the damage, this year’s squad has contributors up and down the roster.  On Sunday, several of those unsung contributors stood out.  Wilmer Difo had three hits, scored three runs, stole a base and drove in a run.  Adam Lind also had three hits including a home run, scored two runs and drove in three.  Even former Reds outfielder Chris Heisey got into the act against his old team on Sunday, going 3 for 5 with two runs scored and a RBI.

NATS NOTES

Starting pitcher Tanner Roark had a strong outing, allowing only three unearned runs and four hits in six innings pitched to earn his seventh win on the year.  Roark and three relievers held the Reds without an extra-base hit.

Washington scored 14 or more runs for the seventh time this year and the 22nd time in Nats’ history.   Washington also registered its 17th five home run plus game since 2005, and its third of the 2017 season.  Three of those 17 games have come against Cincinnati.

Rendon’s long home run to left field was the 19th of season for the talented third baseman, only two shy of career high of 21 set in 2014.  Rendon’s 19 this season have come in 317 fewer at bats than it took him to hit 21 three seasons ago.

2017 has been anything but a smooth campaign for veteran Nats’ reliever Joe Blanton, but the righty has shown signs of improvement recently. Blanton pitched  a scoreless inning with three strikeouts to post his eighth straight appearance without giving up a run.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

A pair of Reds had good games at the plate. Outfielder Jesse Winker picked up a hit, scored a run and walked three times in five plate appearances.  Nats’ killer Scooter Gennett also was up to his old tricks, going 2 for 5 with three runs driven in.

UP NEXT

The Nats go for the four game sweep on Monday afternoon, with All-Star pitcher Stephen Strasburg taking the mound.  Strasburg, who will be looking to pick up his 10th win in the matinee game, is 1-1 with a 6.75 in four career games started at Cincinnati.   He’s fared well in the past against Zack Cozart (0-10 with two strikeouts) and Eugenio Suarez (0 for 5, two strikeouts), while struggling against Gennett (4 for 8, three home runs).

Opposing Strasburg will be veteran Scott Feldman, who is 7-6 with a 3.94 ERA on the year.  The tall righty has won five of his last seven decisions, and has a 3.00 ERA in home games in 2017.  Stephen Drew (7-16, two triples, two homers) and Lind (three homers and six RBI in 23 career at bats) have done well against Feldman, while Rendon (1 for 6 with two strikeouts) has had difficulty.

Game 89 Review- Nationals 5 Reds 0

 
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Bryce Harper circles the bases following his third inning home run off of Cincinnati’s Tim Adleman in Washington’s 5-0 victory over the Reds at the Great American Ballpark on July 14th.

NATIONALS  5  Reds 0

Record 53-36    9.5 games up on Atlanta in the NL East

WP- Gonzalez (8-4)  LP-  Adleman (5-7)  SV- Grace (1)

HR-  Harper, Was 2(22)

The second half of the Nationals’ season began with a great all-around effort as Washington defeated the Reds 5-0 in the first game of a four game series at Cincinnati.   Here’s a look at some of the news and notes from the game.

STARS OF THE GAME

Gio Gonzalez was razor sharp on the night, allowing only four hits in 8.1 shutout innings to earn his eighth win of the year. Gonzalez induced 14 ground ball outs and struck out six as he registered his 17th game in 19 starts on the year where he’s allowed three or fewer earned runs.   Gonzalez’s 79 pitching game score was his highest in a road contest since September 9, 2013 when he posted a 91 score in Washington’s 9-0 rout of the New York Mets.

Nationals’ rightfielder Bryce Harper is a unique talent, and his power stroke was on display on Friday night.  Harper homered twice for the fourth time this year and registered the 14th multi-home run game of his career to pace Washington’s attack.   The all-star has a nine game hitting streak going, and is 15-34 with 12 runs scored, two doubles, four home runs and 10 RBI during that time period.

He may not have been part of the All-Star festivities in Miami earlier this week, but anyone who has watched Anthony Rendon play this year realizes that the Nats’ third baseman is playing at an All-Star level. Rendon was 2 for 3 with a double and a run batted in at the plate and made several sparkling defensive plays to support Gonzalez’s strong outing.

STRONG EVEN IN DEFEAT

The Reds have a large supply of power arms in the bullpen, and righty Asher Wojciechowski’s ability to throw hard was on display on Friday.   The South Carolina native struck out four, including Harper and Rendon, in two scoreless innings pitched.

NATS NOTES

Brian Goodwin led of the contest with a double to right and later scored the game’s first run on a Stephen Drew RBI hit.  The first inning success for the Nats’ rookie is nothing new. In 24 at bats in the first inning so far this year, Goodwin is hitting .375 with a 1.194 OPS.

Catcher Matt Wieters had a strong game, working with Gonzalez to shut down the Reds and picking up two hits in three at bats. The multi-hit game was the 14th of the year for Wieters, but only his third in games played away from Nationals Park.

Rendon was not the only Nationals’ player flashing the leather on Friday night.  Goodwin and Chris Heisey both made sparking catches, with Goodwin’s keeping the Reds off of the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth with Washington holding only a three run lead.  Middle infielders Drew and Wilmer Difo also were strong with the glove, with Drew turning a potential two run single by Tucker Barnhart into a game ending out to end a Reds’ bases loaded threat.

UP NEXT

Later today, Cincinnati fans will get to see something they’ve not had a chance to do previously.  Nats’ ace Max Scherzer will make the first appearance of his career at the Great American Ballpark as he looks for his 11th win on the year.  In his career Scherzer has posted a 2.75 ERA, the best mark in any month for the All-Star righty.

Opposing Scherzer will be rookie Luis Castillo, who is 1-1 with a 3.13 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched. The righthander has been more effective keeping lefties (.222/.286/.469) than righties (.286/.375/.452) off base so far this year.

So far this year the Nationals have not been living it up on Saturday night, or at any time during the weekend’s first day for that matter.  Washington is 6-8 in Saturday contests so far in 2017.