courtesy of Matthew Straubmuller
Right-handed starting pitcher Dan Haren threw his longest outing of the season Saturday afternoon leading the Washington Nationals to a 6-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. The game was a much stronger outing than the last time he faced the Reds during the first week of the season. The Nats lost that match-up 15-0, but Haren’s start and Washington’s offense gave the Nats their third consecutive win.
Washington made right-handed pitcher Mike Leake work hard early. After a three up, three down first inning, seven of the Nats’ starting nine faced him in the second while scoring two runs to give Washington a 2-0 lead.
Shortstop Ian Desmond and third baseman Anthony Rendon both drew back-to-back walks off Leake with one out in the bottom of the second. Desmond went on to score off a two-out RBI-single by Haren hit down the right field line and Rendon followed shortly thereafter by scoring on a RBI-single hit by center fielder Denard Span.
Outfielders Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth led off the third inning with back-to-back singles before Harper went on to score off a RBI-single hit by Desmond up the middle with one out. Thanks to a throwing error by Reds third baseman Jack Hannahan, the Nats extended their lead by two more runs when Werth scored on a single hit by catcher Kurt Suzuki. Hannahan launched the ball into centerfield while trying to throw to second base and have Werth called out. Hannahan’s attempt failed, though, giving the Nats a 4-0 lead.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto kept the game from being a shutout in the fourth when he scored on a RBI-single hit by second baseman Brandon Phillips, but Cincinnati couldn’t manage a rally, making it a 4-1 ballgame.
Leake got pulled by the start of the fourth inning and was replaced by right-handed reliever Alfredo Simon. Harper crushed a two-run homer, his ninth homerun of the season, off Simon with one out in the fourth giving the Nats even more of a lead cushion and putting the team up 6-1. The homerun sailed to the Nats’ bullpen and with it, Harper gained control of the club’s record for the most RBI’s in the month of April with 18, passing Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman.
Cincinnati fought back a bit when their lead-off batter Shin-Soo Chin hit a solo homerun to right-center field off Haren in the sixth with no one out, making it a 6-2 game. But the Reds’ battle was short-lived and Phillips grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Span got in a fancy web gem during the bottom half of the sixth inning robbing perennial All-Star Votto of a homerun. The crowd of 38,903 erupted with joy when Span took a little jump to catch the ball hit by Votto just as it was about to pass over the top of the visitor’s bullpen wall in left field.
Washington’s defense backed up reliever left-hander Zach Duke when he entered the game to face three batters in the sixth. Reds right fielder Jay Bruce reached second on a throwing error made by second baseman Danny Espinosa when he led off the inning. Duke proceeded to walk left fielder Xavier Paul before striking out Hannahan and having catcher Devin Mesoraco hit a fly out.
Right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard replaced Duke with two on and two out in the seventh. Clippard allowed one run when Bruce scored on a RBI-single hit by pinch hitter Todd Frazier, cutting the Nats lead over Cincinnati to 6-3. Span averted the potential crisis for Clippard, though, by gobbling up a hit to center field by Zack Cozart to end the inning. Span breached the gap in the outfield to snag that ball in time.
The Nats’ defense held the Reds during the eighth inning when reliever Drew Storen came in to pitch. Storen gave up back-to-back singles with one out before Desmond and Esipnosa turned a 6-4-3 double play keeping Washington in the lead.
Closer Rafael Soriano finished the afternoon out by nabbing his seventh save of the season in a three up, three down ninth inning while striking out two batters.