Jul 7, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT
GAME IN A NUTSHELL: It was billed as a premier pitching matchup between one guy in the middle of a stretch of dominance not seen in a long time and another guy who has been among baseball’s best pitchers for several years. And it didn’t come close to living up to the billing.
Max Scherzer was rocked by the Reds, a rare dud of a start for the Nationals ace, who was tagged for five runs in only 4 2/3 innings. Scherzer, who had allowed four total runs over his last four starts combined, surrendered four extra-base hits, including a Joey Votto homer in the third.
Johnny Cueto, on the other hand, was every bit as dominant as Scherzer had been over the last few weeks. The Reds right-hander went the distance, tossing a 2-hit shutout, striking out 11 along the way and completely baffling the Nationals’ injury-plagued lineup.
And so the Nats fell to 0-5 this season against a Cincinnati club that is 38-44 overall but somehow has owned this opponent like no other.
HITTING LOWLIGHT: The challenge of facing Cueto was daunting enough, but facing him with five regulars injured might as well have been a death sentence. With Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth on the DL and Denard Span and Yunel Escobar sidelined again with nagging injuries, the Nationals lineup was a shell of what it’s supposed to be. Bryce Harper did all he could, singling in the first and walking in the fourth. But the rest of the group couldn’t do anything to help the cause. Ian Desmond’s leadoff triple in the fifth represented the Nats’ only other hit off Cueto … and he didn’t even score after Matt den Dekker, Taylor Jordan and Michael Taylor all struck out.
PITCHING LOWLIGHT: The notion of Scherzer being a lowlight was unfathomable only three hours ago, and it still doesn’t seem plausible. But there it was tonight, a legitimately poor outing by the right-hander, who was tagged for five runs and seven hits in only 4 2/3 innings. It was the first time Scherzer didn’t complete six innings this season, the first time he didn’t complete five innings since June 17, 2014, a streak of 34 starts between two organizations in two leagues. You could tell right away he wasn’t in top form, though. Scherzer was quite deliberate in delivering his pitches in the top of the first and missed his target by several feet on several occasions. Scherzer certainly was entitled to one bad start after a historically dominant stretch, but it was still jarring to witness.
KEY STAT: Cueto has now pitched at least five innings in 52 consecutive starts, the longest such streak in the majors.
UP NEXT: The series concludes at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday when Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 4.16) faces right-hander Michael Lorenzen (3-3, 3.58).
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
ON THE RADIO
As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.
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