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Reds 5, Nats 0: Scherzer rocked during rare off-night

Jul 7, 2015, 9:35 PM EST

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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).

  1. nattygoats - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:40 PM

    The boys don’t usually do this, but tonight they QUIT! One of the most lackluster performances I can remember in the last couple seasons. No,reason to think tomorrow will be any different.

    • stoatva - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:43 PM

      No reason to think you won’t be at Camden Yards cheering on your Oreos, Brooksie.

  2. acsportsfn - Jul 7, 2015 at 9:44 PM

    Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other guys. We’ll get them tomorrow.

  3. ArVAFan - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:14 PM

    http://m.mlb.com/cutfour/2015/07/06/135031176/university-students-developed-knuckleball-throwing-robot

    And now for something completely off topic (which might be welcome):

    What I want to know is why the University of Toronto students used a Phillies cap and logo on their robot. Did the Phillies fund the research, knowing that was the only way they could get back in contention? Can the robot field his position (or does it matter, since there won’t be anyone on base)? Is the robot old enough to be signed to a contract? If it leaks oil or W-D 40, is that a foreign substance (maybe that’s why they needed the cap), or is that the equivalent of sweat?

    • ehay2k - Jul 8, 2015 at 8:56 AM

      Yes even more strange they didn’t use a Jays’ cap since the best and only (still?) knuckleballer in the game plays in their home town?

  4. stoatva - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:46 PM

    Just back from the game, which obviously left a lot to be desired, but nothing in the team’s performance annoyed me as much as the tepid round of applause Scherzer got when he was taken out of the game. Maybe this town hasn’t come as far as I thought from the day when people went streaming out of Strasburg’s debut the second he was taken out of the game. Disgusting, frankly.

    • stoatva - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:49 PM

      Okay, the two called strikeouts with Desi on third annoyed me just a little more. But not much.

    • rabbit433 - Jul 8, 2015 at 8:15 AM

      Even listening on TV it could be heard there was minimal applause for Scherzer. I felt bad for him. He deserved a whole lot better from the fans.

  5. Joe Seamhead - Jul 7, 2015 at 10:52 PM

    Don’t have an answer for you, ArVaFan.

    We’re just home from the park. Highlight of the night was running into the lovely Michele S before the game. Always a treat.

    We did the unheard of. We left before the fat lady sang and took off in the eighth inning. That just was a very uninspiring game. Actually, it was lousy baseball except for Cueto’s pitching and Votto’s hitting. I thought Wilson Ramos looked like he just was going to concede the run to Billy Hamilton after Billy stole third. His lack of hustle to go get the ball that got away from him was inexcusable. But what the hell was Espinosa doing running towards home behind Hamilton? And then there was Ramos’ base running on the double play the inning before.Just crappy baseball mental guffaws by Wilson.

    • stoatva - Jul 7, 2015 at 11:01 PM

      The Reds were desperately trying to give us runs with miscues and we wouldn’t take them. Runner on third in three of the first five innings.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Jul 7, 2015 at 11:21 PM

      Watched on tv, but i thought Espinosa was ahead of Hamilton. I remember because I expected Hamilton to try to get contact for an obstruction call.

      • therealjohnc - Jul 8, 2015 at 9:42 AM

        Espinosa was ahead of Hamilton, and he was running to cover home respecting Hamilton’s speed in case Scherzer was slow to get to the plate.

        I had the same thought as you, sec 3 – I liked Espinosa being heads up enough to cover the plate, but wish he had done so out of the baseline.

  6. dcwx61 - Jul 7, 2015 at 11:05 PM

    just back from the game too…kind of humid…gets draining. But no more Cueto, the rest of the reds staff is real bad. but can out AAAA lineup hit anybody ? Tomorrow never knows.

  7. 3on2out - Jul 7, 2015 at 11:09 PM

    I voted for Cueto this afternoon on
    NL All Star ballot. I blame myself.

  8. Sec219 - Jul 7, 2015 at 11:36 PM

    Re tepid response for Scherzer, I disagree. He pitched poorly. Fans showed appreciation. Several stood. Anything more would have been inappropriate.

    Re our AAA team, I’ve been to several games in past week. Teams are pitching around Harper, and are right to do so. Robinson made Giants pay Fri night but otherwise, not so much. Need hitting help soon. We had 3 intended starters in today’s lineup. This can’t go on for long.

  9. Guapo - Jul 8, 2015 at 9:28 AM

    Ian Desmond stat of the day.

    Desmond leads all NL SS is strikeouts with 97, that’s 50% more than the next closest player, Brandon Crawford at 64.

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