Reds 8, Nats 7

If you watched that entire Nats-Reds on Tuesday night tilt - all 5 hours, 20 minutes of it - you put in a lot of work for a one-run loss. It was nice to see Washington fight back after sitting through an 2-hour, 32-minute rain delay at Great American Ballpark and being down 8-1 after five innings.

But Washington scored six runs in a wild sixth inning. Ryan Zimmerman went deep to right for a two-run homer. Michael Morse blasted a bases-loaded triple. Ian Desmond doubled him home and went to third on the throw. Unfortunately, the Nats couldn’t push across that one last run. Cincinnati’s bullpen settled down in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings and didn’t allow a single baserunner. The game ended on a sour note when home-plate umpire Marty Foster called out Adam Dunn on strikes. Dunn tossed his bat away in disgust at a ball that television replays showed was clearly inside and low. And manager Jim Riggleman got into a heated argument with Foster as the umpire crossed in front of the Nats’ dugout en route to the exit tunnel.

Tough break. But the Nats needed a better effort from Luis Atilano early. They didn’t get it as Cincinnati scored five runs on him in four innings before the rains came and halted play. Atilano gave up a three-run homer in the first inning to Joey Votto. He walked three batters. With so many pitchers knocking on the door in the minors – Scott Olsen, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan etc. – it’s pretty clear Atilano isn’t long for this rotation. To be honest, all those guys were ahead of him at the beginning of the season anyway. The signing of Cuban defector Yunesky Maya, a 28-year-old considered close to major-league ready, only adds to the competition. Atilano also looked bad in a minor-league start at Triple-A Syracuse during the All-Star break last week. He didn’t look all that great in July starts vs. San Diego (5 1/3 innings, four runs) and the New York Mets (3 2/3 innings, five runs), either. Washington fell to 40-54 and has now lost four games in a row. The Reds are 53-42 and just a ½ game behind St. Louis for first place in the N.L. Central. Mike Leake – a serious N.L. rookie of the year candidate – earned the win on the mound for Cincinnati. He is 7-1 with a 3.45 ERA. Not bad for a kid who went straight from college to the majors. It's also the second time this season he's toyed with the Nats. Leake gave up just five hits and a walk through five innings. On June 5 he pitched seven shutout innings at Nationals Park.

Were there any positives? Well, reliever Tyler Clippard looked great in two scoreless innings. The Nats really needed to see that. Matt Capps also got some work since he hadn’t pitched since Friday in Florida. He gave up one hit in a scoreless eighth inning. Zimmerman and Nyjer Morgan both had two hits. Morse’s pinch-hit triple was huge. Washington’s front office even signed Maya, who had drawn interest from multiple clubs and appears close to big-league ready. Oh – and Stephen Strasburg (4-2, 2.03 ERA) is pitching later today. That’s always a positive. Merry Strasmas everybody!

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