CINCINNATI (AP)—Already down by six runs in the second inning, the Cincinnati Reds were expecting the worst. Usually, that’s what they get these days.
“The way we started the game, we thought it was going to be ugly,” said Valentin, who won it with the fifth pinch-hit homer of his career.
It was ugly, all right.
Valentin’s homer off Jon Rauch (2-1) was set up by a misplay characteristic of the NL’s worst team. Center fielder Nook Logan and right fielder Austin Kearns let Scott Hatteberg’s fly drop for an RBI double ahead of Valentin’s homer, leaving the Nationals (16-29) with some explaining to do.
“We were both calling for it,” said Logan, who had his glove lined up but turned away at the last instant. “I saw him at the last minute out of the corner of my eye. He was still running, and he’s a pretty big guy. That cost us the game.”
Hatteberg homered and doubled twice, driving in four runs as the Reds won for only the fifth time in 19 games. Ken Griffey Jr. added a solo homer, the 572nd of his career. Griffey is one behind Harmon Killebrew for eighth place on the list.
Second baseman Brandon Phillips went 0-for-4, ending his hitting streak at 22 games. It was the longest streak in the NL this season and the longest by a Reds batter since 1996, when Hal Morris hit in 29 straight.
The Nationals got up 6-0 in the second inning, but their usually dependable bullpen let them down. By the time Valentin came to bat, the Reds were feeling pretty good.
“Javy is one of the better pinch hitters in baseball,” manager Jerry Narron said. “Every time he goes up there, you feel he has a chance to hit the ball out of the park. I feel pretty good with him coming up there.”
Rauch made a big mistake on a one-ball, two-strike pitch to Valentin.
“I wanted the pitch to Valentin down and away, and I left it over the middle,” Rauch said. “Of course, I’m down on myself. I’m not getting the job done.”
The game united the NL’s two worst teams of this season, and reunited players involved in one of last season’s biggest trades—one that’s disputed to this day. The Nationals are last in the NL East, with the Reds at the bottom of the NL Central.
They’re also linked by a grievance.
Washington got Kearns and shortstop Felipe Lopez in an eight-player deal with the Reds last July 13. The Reds filed a grievance this month claiming that general manager Jim Bowden—who was fired in Cincinnati in 2003—failed to fully inform them about Gary Majewski’s sore pitching shoulder before the trade.
The teams hadn’t played since the deal. Lopez and Kearns had roles in getting the Nationals off to the 6-0 lead in their homecoming.
With his game-opening single, Lopez started one of Washington’s biggest rallies of the season. The Nationals sent 10 batters to the plate in a 20-minute, 49-pitch inning against Bronson Arroyo, who lasted only two innings.
“I never got into it,” said Arroyo, who threw a complete game in his last start. “I walked some guys I shouldn’t have. Just one of those games.”
Dmitri Young doubled home a pair of runs during the four-run rally, and singled ahead of Kearns’ homer in the second inning for a 6-0 lead—big stuff for a team that hasn’t scored more than seven runs in any game this season.
As usual, the Nationals didn’t deal well with prosperity. Rookie Levale Speigner gave up five runs in three innings, including Hatteberg’s two-run homer and Griffey’s solo shot in the third. Speigner opened the season in long relief, and is trying to help the Nationals’ injury-depleted rotation.
Since he returned to his accustomed spot at third in the batting order on May 3, Griffey has hit seven of his nine homers. He batted fourth or fifth early in the season. … Speigner was the 364th pitcher to allow a homer by Griffey. … LF Ryan Church was out of the Nationals’ lineup, a day after he was hit on the left forearm by a pitch. The injury isn’t serious. … Reds OF Josh Hamilton celebrated his 26th birthday on Monday without the traditional fare. “I don’t think I’ll be eating any birthday cake,” he said. He was hospitalized in Cleveland on Saturday for an inflamed digestive system.