Entering the game with the worst ERA in the National League and facing three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, the Cincinnati Reds’ pitching struggles easily could have continued Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.
Instead, it was Tyler Mahle delivering a solid outing with 5 1/3 shutout innings as he and Tejay Antone, Amir Garrett and Lucas Sims combined to allow one run on four hits and outduel Scherzer and the Nationals 2-1.
The Reds, who had lost six of their previous seven games, will try to continue to reverse their recent losing trend when they face the host Nationals again on Wednesday night in the second of three games.
Cincinnati eked out just enough offense (solo home runs by Kyle Farmer and Eugenio Suarez) against Scherzer, who struck out nine and walked one while allowing five hits over seven innings.
“(Scherzer) missed the changeup right in my strike zone, and I was ready to hit it,” Suarez said.
For Suarez, it was his first career start batting in the leadoff spot.
“It’s really just to help Geno, doing anything to mix it up a little bit,” Reds manager David Bell said before the game. “More than anything, just giving him a different look.”
It will be Jeff Hoffman’s turn for the Reds as he opposes struggling Nationals’ starter Joe Ross (2-4, 5.72 ERA).
Ross is 2-0, 1.32 in his past two starts against the Reds, and has a 2.84 ERA against Cincinnati in three career starts overall.
Ross gave up four runs on five hits, including a home run, and a walk in 3 2/3 innings while striking out three in his most recent start against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.
After not allowing a run over his first 12 innings this season, Ross has struggled over his past six starts. Over that span, Ross has compiled a 7.94 ERA, allowed nine home runs and walked 15 while striking out 27.
A strong start appears imperative for Ross to be able to hang on to his spot in the Nationals’ rotation.
“I threw a lot more changeups today, which for the most part felt good, but a couple of them got hurt,” Ross said after facing the Cubs.
Hoffman (3-3, 4.31 ERA) made his most recent start Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers and things didn’t go well early as he walked three batters in a row and forced home a run in the second inning. But that wasthe only run Hoffman allowed as he threw 99 pitches in five innings to pick up the win. Hoffman struck out seven, walked four and allowed only two hits.
The strikeouts were a season-high for Hoffman, who is 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA in three career starts against the Nationals.
Reds reliever Sean Doolittle was honored by the Nationals on Tuesday with a pregame video montage and presented with signed memorabilia in his first game in Washington since hitting free agency last season. Doolittle spent 3 1/2 seasons with the Nationals, helping the club win its lone World Series title in 2019.
“He was a very important part of this ballclub but also of this city,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “We miss him. We’re glad he’s doing well, but I can’t wait to see him.”
–Field Level Media