Nationals-Reds Preview


The Cincinnati Reds unleashed an impressive offense attack in their series-opening win against the Washington Nationals.

Cincinnati hopes its bats can stay hot Saturday in its second game against Washington at Great American Ballpark.

Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart each connected on a pair of home runs Friday night as the Reds (3-1) totaled six homers in a 15-0 victory. One series earlier, Cincinnati totaled 11 runs on 16 hits while taking two of three from the Angels to start the season.

"A lot of people were questioning our hitting after the last series, even though we won two out of three," said Cozart, who was 0 for 11 in three games before Friday. "Tonight, we showed that we can hit. Hopefully, we'll keep it going this weekend."

The Reds' offense could be even scarier considering two of its best hitters - Joey Votto and Jay Bruce - have yet to homer this season. The team is also without Ryan Ludwick, who hit 26 home runs last year but is likely out until after the All-Star break following shoulder surgery Wednesday.

Votto started 1 for 10 in his first three games, but got it going Friday with a 3-for-4 performance. He is hitting .444 over his last eight games against the Nationals.

Bruce is mired in a 3-for-18 slump, although two of those hits came against Washington. The right-fielder led the team with 34 home runs last year, but has developed a reputation as a streaky hitter. He hit .290 or better last April and August, but also hit .229 or worse in three separate months.

"We need him, especially in the middle part of the order," manager Dusty Baker told the team's official website. "He comes up almost every at-bat with somebody on base."

Bruce is 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

"That's why when he's hot, he can get a bunch of RBIs in a short period of time. When you're cold, it compounds the pressure," Baker added.

The Nationals (3-1) became baseball's last team to suffer a loss, and it was their most lopsided defeat since returning to Washington in 2005. They were fresh off allowing just one run on 15 hits in a season-opening sweep of the Marlins, though as Friday starter Dan Haren quickly found out, the Reds' batting order is much more difficult to navigate.

"I've had my share of bad games along with good games," said Haren, who surrendered four home runs in his Washington debut. "They're tough to deal with, but the sooner you forget about it, the better."

Left-hander Ross Detwiler will look for better luck as he gets the nod Saturday. He owns a 3.13 ERA in four career starts against the Reds, though he went 0-3 in those games.

Cincinnati's starters struck out a club-record 43 batters over the first four games, including six by Homer Bailey in as many innings Friday. But that pace is likely to cool Saturday when Mike Leake takes the hill.

Leake hasn't been much of a strikeout pitcher during his career, averaging 6.0 per nine innings. But the Reds - who chose not to skip his start despite Tuesday's off day - hope he can still be effective following a spring in which he posted a 5.12 ERA over five outings.

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