- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - There are plenty of reasons why the Cincinnati Reds have lost eight of nine and are in last place, 22 games under .500.

At the top of the list: Ineffective starting pitching.

Brandon Finnegan was the latest culprit, allowing eight runs in an abbreviated performance that sent Cincinnati on its way to a 13-4 loss to the Washington Nationals on Thursday night.

Finnegan (3-7) gave up five hits, five walks and two home runs in 2 1/3 innings. He had never yielded more runs, or gotten fewer outs, in any of his previous major league starts.

“You all saw the game. Not much to say about it,” Finnegan said. “It was definitely my worst outing of the year - of my life, honestly. Just have to get ready for my next start.”

That’s the mantra of a starting rotation that has put tremendous pressure on an overworked bullpen. Although Michael Lorenzen provided three innings of shutout relief, manager Bryan Price was anything but elated.

“A large part of our ability to win is going to come down to what we’re able to do with our starting pitching and the ability to shrink the length of game that’s being pitched by our bullpen,” Price said. “We saw Lorenzen tonight, very good, three huge innings for us in what was getting out of hand, but unfortunately that means we don’t have Lorenzen (next game).”

Joey Votto homered for Cincinnati, which has yielded 40 runs in its last four games - all of them defeats.

Danny Espinosa’s second career slam put Washington up 8-1 in the third inning, and he added a three-run homer in the fourth to make it 13-1. Espinosa ranks second on the team with 15 homers despite usually batting eighth.

The switch-hitter connected off Finnegan batting right-handed, then went deep from the left side against Josh Smith. He is the first Nationals player ever to homer from both sides of the plate, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Gio Gonzalez (4-7) gave up four runs and struck out nine over six innings for the NL East-leading Nationals, whose current five-game winning streak comes on the heels of a seven-game skid. Gonzalez was 0-6 with an 8.44 ERA in his previous seven starts.

Ryan Zimmerman got the rout started with a three-run homer in the first inning against the lowly Reds.

Washington tied a season high for runs in a game without receiving a contribution from reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, who was given the night off by manager Dusty Baker.

“His legs are a little tired,” Baker said, noting that Harper twisted his ankle earlier in the week. “He’s been playing through things the last couple days.”

HIT PARADE

Reds: It was the second time in seven games that Cincinnati lost by nine runs. The Reds have allowed at least 13 runs eight times this season.

Nationals: During its five-game winning streak, Washington has outscored the opposition 36-12.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Reds: RHP Caleb Cotham (right shoulder inflammation) was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Thursday night at Class-AA Pensacola against Chattanooga. Manager Bryan Price said the plan is to have Cotham pitch around five times in the minors, “and then we’ll reassess.” Cotham has been on the DL since May 31. … OF Billy Hamilton passed concussion protocol and was in the starting lineup after being struck in the face by a deflected line drive Wednesday.

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (back, ribs) is eligible to return from the DL on Friday, but that almost certainly will not happen. “I’m more inclined not to rush him,” Baker said.

UP NEXT

Reds: RHP Anthony DeSclafani (2-0, 1.52 ERA) makes his fifth start of the season, bringing a 13-inning scoreless streak into Friday night’s game against Washington.

Nationals: RHP Tanner Roark (7-5, 2.96) is 3-1 with a 2.30 ERA over his last four starts.

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