- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2015

After sweeping the San Francisco Giants over the holiday weekend, the Washington Nationals dropped their series-opener against the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, 3-2.  

Casey Janssen gave up the go-ahead solo home run to Eugenio Suarez in the eighth inning. 

THE RUNDOWN: Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani had his first inning interrupted by a 29-minute rain delay, but it did nothing to cool off his hot start. Desclafani gave up no hits and struck out five during his first time through the Nationals’ order. He also drove in the first run of the game with his first career double in the second inning. But Desclafani ran into trouble in the third inning, which culminated in a Nationals’ run off of a wild pitch. The score remained knotted at 1 until the sixth Marlon Byrd got ahold of a 1-2 slider, hitting a line drive to right field that hit off the top of the wall. Harper held him at second with a strong throw before the umpires sent Byrd home, only to send him back to second base upon further review. Byrd ended up scoring two batters later on a Suarez single to left field. Danny Espinosa brought the Nationals even with the Reds with a solo shot to the seats in right-center for his ninth homer of the season. Suarez answered in the top of the eighth with his third home run of the season.

THE HIGHLIGHT: Matt den Dekker took the leadoff spot in the Nationals’ order when Denard Span left the game after the second inning for undisclosed reasons. With two outs in the third, the 27-year-old reserve outfielder slapped a single to right field. Yunel Escobar followed den Dekker with an infield single, and Bryce Harper drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases. During the next at bat with Wilson Ramos at the plate, Desclafani threw a wild pitch that catcher Brayan Pena did well to block with his chest protector. Desclafani wasted no time, charging the ball that had bounced back into fair territory and using his glove to flip it to Pena. However, den Dekker, hustling from third, was leaving his feet at roughly the same time the ball was leaving Desclafani’s glove. His bold head-first slide paid off when he managed to touch home by sticking his arm through Pena’s legs to just beat the tag.

STAR OF THE GAME: In addition to his solo shot to right-center, Espinosa doubled to deep center in the fourth inning. He has been a pleasant surprise for the Nationals all season, from his defensive consistency to his gradual improvement at the plate. Espinosa also flashed his versatility Monday night, moving from second base to third when Escobar left the game.

THE TAKEAWAY: Both Span and Escobar came out of the game early for undisclosed reasons. The obvious assumption is that both were in some sort of discomfort. Monday marked Span’s 59th game this season and the 83rd game for the Nationals. Span’s has missed games at times due to back and knee issues that have plagued him all year. Some of the games that Span missed were due to Matt Williams electing to rest him, which was the case on Saturday against the San Francisco Giants. Escobar has missed the occasional game here and there but hasn’t been as much of an injury concern as Span. Still, the two contact hitters are the pillars of consistency at the top of the Nationals’ order, and the team will need them healthy come October. If Span did aggravate one of his lingering injuries, Williams may need to consider a different strategy to keep him healthy than the occasional day of rest.

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