WASHINGTON -- Washington second baseman Danny Espinosa broke out of a month-long slump and starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez allowed just one hit in eight innings as the Nationals beat the Cincinnati Reds 8-1 on Thursday before an announced crowd of 24,748.
The Nationals (11-11) won the first of the four-game series after losing their last six home games. The Reds (13-10) fell behind early in a matchup of starting pitchers from South Florida as Bronson Arroyo (2-2) gave up five earned runs and nine hits, including two homers, in six innings.
Gonzalez (2-1) bounced back from a poor start Saturday against the Mets to beat the Reds, who are now 1-6 on the road this year. Washington had lost its last four games overall, including a series sweep that ended here Wednesday with the Cardinals after which Washington manager Davey Johnson promised to shake up the lineup.
A 21-game winner last year, Gonzalez allowed only one run with seven strikeouts and two walks while throwing 112 pitches, 78 for strikes. With fans chanting "Let's go Gio," he fanned pinch-hitter Xavier Paul to end the eighth with Devin Mesoraco on first via a walk. Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for Washington.
J.J. Hoover came on to pitch for the Reds in the last of the seventh and retired all three batters for his fifth scoreless outing in a row. Logan Ondrusek pitched the eighth for Cincinnati and gave up a two-out, two-run triple by Denard Span as the Nationals took an 8-1 lead.
The Nationals took a 6-0 lead in a four-run third inning as Espinosa, who entered the game with an average of .155, hit a two-run homer off Reds starter Bronson Arroyo to score Adam LaRoche.
Washington had taken a 3-0 lead in the third as Bryce Harper led off with a long homer to center off Arroyo. It was the eighth homer of the season for Harper, who set a Nationals record for homers in the month of April.
Jayson Werth then followed with a single and went to third when LaRoche, who had fanned in his six previous at-bats, hit a grounder to Joey Votto at first. The throw from Votto to second base hit Werth, who advanced to third as LaRoche was safe at first.
Ian Desmond then grounded out to second as Werth scored to make it 4-0 before Espinosa followed with his homer down the right field line. It was the second homer of the season for Espinosa, who entered the game with three RBI in 58 at bats.
The Nationals built a 2-0 lead in the second on an RBI double by Espinosa and a two-out single by Denard Span.
Gonzalez, who began the night with an ERA of 5.85, retired the first 11 batters before Joey Votto hit a solo homer to left with two outs in the fourth to make it 6-1.
NOTES: Reds lefty reliever Sean Marshall, who went on the DL April 10 with tendinitis in his left shoulder, made a rehab appearance Wednesday for Triple-A Louisville and allowed no runs in one inning versus Gwinnett. He was eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday. ... Washington began the game with a record of 10-11, the first time they had been below .500 since the end of the 2011 season. ... Shin-Soo Choo (.534) and Votto (.477) of the Reds entered the game ranked first and second in the National League in on-base percentage. ... Steve Lombardozzi got the start at third base and was hitting second in the order for the Nationals. Rookie Anthony Rendon had started the past four games at third for Washington after Ryan Zimmerman was placed on the DL with a hamstring injury. Werth, who normally hits second for the Nats, was in the cleanup spot against the Reds.