- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In a sloppy game that featured four errors and an unusually short outing by Max Scherzer, the Washington Nationals dropped their second consecutive game to the Cincinnati Reds, 5-0.

The Nationals were completely shut down by Reds starter Johnny Cueto, who allowed only two hits and recorded 11 strikeouts in the shutout. Washington still has yet to beat Cincinnati this year.

THE RUNDOWN: The battle of the aces between Cueto and Scherzer proved to be one sided in Tuesday’s game, as the Reds bats were sounding early. After a Joey Votto RBI double plated Brandon Phillips in the first inning, Jay Bruce delivered his third triple of the season two batters later, scoring Votto from second. Scherzer was tattooed by Cincinnati’s hitting over a span of 4 2/3 innings, at which point he was replaced by Taylor Jordan. Scherzer surrendered seven hits and five earned runs with five strikeouts. Tuesday night was Scherzer’s shortest outing of the 2015 season, with his ERA rising above 2.00 for the first time since June 9.

THE HIGHLIGHT: With only one hit for the Nationals after four innings, Ian Desmond sparked some excitement with a triple down the left field line. With that three-bagger, Desmond recorded his first extra-base hit since his two-run home run June 28 vs. the Phillies, and his first triple of the 2015 season. The triple was the 20th of Desmond’s career.

STAR OF THE GAME: Votto did everything right at the plate in his team’s victory Tuesday night, going 3-5 with two runs and three RBI — giving him 42 RBI on the season. Votto had an RBI double in the first inning, which started the rout of Scherzer. In the third inning, Votto connected on a solo home run to right field — his 15th of the season. Adding a single and an RBI in the fifth inning, Votto proved to be the most valuable in Tuesday’s game, plating three of the Reds five runs on the night.

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THE TAKEAWAY: There wasn’t much positivity for Nationals fans to go home with after tonight’s game. The Nationals had only one extra-base hit all night with Desmond’s fifth-inning triple. They totaled hits in the game. Most importantly, Scherzer wasn’t himself tonight. Scherzer threw only 81 pitches over 4 2/3 innings, although roughly 73 percent of them were strikes. After flirting with a perfect game in three of his last four starts, Scherzer struggled. The Reds had him figured out early, in return punching out Scherzer earlier than Washington had hoped. This outing shouldn’t be too worrisome for Nationals fans, as Scherzer managed not to walk a batter Tuesday night. The Reds made solid contact with all of Scherzer’s pitches, but that happens with pitchers who may be fatigued after a multitude of long outings. Scherzer had thrown over 100 pitches in every outing since May 11, and his fatigue most likely caught up with him in Tuesday’s game. The last time Scherzer gave up four runs or more in an outing was June 9 vs. the Yankees. His next outing? A complete game shutout with one hit allowed and 16 strikeouts.

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