After a strong outing against the Miami Marlins on Monday, Stephen Strasburg (1-1 struggled Sunday afternoon in the Washington Nationals’ (4-2) 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds (4-2) at the Great American Ball Park.
In 5 1/3 innings, the pitching ace allowed nine hits, four walks and six runs over 114 pitches – 73 of which were strikes.
The Reds proved a headache for Strasburg without ever banking on the long ball. Shin-Soo Choo flew out to right in the bottom of the first before four consecutive Reds reached base safely. Xavier Paul and Brand Phillips sandwiched a Joey Votto walk with two singles before Jay Bruce doubled to left to plate Paul and Votto. Phillips reached home on a Todd Frazier ground out and Cincinnati took a 3-0 lead into the second inning.
The Nats made it a new ballgame in the second inning, however, after Ian Desmond doubled, Danny Espinosa walked and Kurt Suzuki homered to tie the game, 3-3.
The Reds threatened once again in the second inning after Choo and Paul singled back-to-back on hanging fastballs but Votto chased a 1-2 changeup to end the inning.
Johnny Cueto pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the third but, yet again, Strasburg’s inconsistency provided Cincinnati with an opportunity in the bottom of the inning.
Strasburg forced Phillips to ground to second for the first out, but Bruce reached on a fielding error by first baseman Chad Tracy before Todd Frazier singled to left. Zack Cozart grounded softly to Desmond, but Strasburg intentionally walked Ryan Hanigan to pitch to Cueto who grounded into a force out to end the inning.
Suzuki delivered once more for the Nats with a double in the top of the fourth and Denard Span walked with two outs, but Jayson Werth struck out swinging to end the Nats’ shot at a fourth-inning rally.
Both teams failed to send a runner home until the bottom of the sixth, in which pinch-hitter Derrick Robinson and Choo hit back-to-back singles before Paul batted in Robinson on a fielder’s choice. Phillips’ two-out single plated Choo to make it 5-3 Reds before the Nats called upon Ryan Mattheus.
On Mattheus’s second pitch, Bruce singled to short to make it 6-3 Reds before all was said and done.
Mattheus prevented the Reds from scoring throughout the remainder of his 1 2/3 innings pitched and Henry Rodriguez provided an inning of hitless relief, but the Nats managed only one hit against Cincinnati relievers.
THE TAKEAWAY: Stephen Strasburg affirmed consistency will be a key factor in determining how the pitching ace will deliver in what will presumably be his first full season with the Washington Nationals. The Nats can take comfort in recognizing that the Cincinnati Reds could not hit for power against the right-hander, but he struggled throughout his stint nonetheless and has yet to exceed seven innings in a single outing in his career.
THE GOOD: Kurt Suzuki went 3-for-4 with one run and 3 RBI on a night when no one else on the Nationals’ roster tallied more than one hit.
THE BAD: Strasburg made it just 5 1/3 innings before Davey Johnson shut him down.
THE UGLY: The Nats were just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Reds also tallied just three more hits than the Nats, yet they were able to capitalize on walks and fielding errors.
THE STATS: The Nationals: 8 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 10 K, 1-for-8 with RISP, 11 LOB, 1 GIDP (Werth)
The Reds: 11 H, 6 R, 6 BB, 7 K, 4-for-16 with RISP, 25 LOB
NEXT GAME: Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET vs. Chicago White Sox; RHP Jake Peavy (1-0) vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez (1-0)