Down 7-2 after seven, the Reds scored two in the eighth and two in the ninth and left the tying run perched on second base.
Oh, of course Aristides Aquino hit a home run. And that’s not fake news. He drilled his eighth home run in 11 games this season in the eighth inning, cutting Washington’s lead from 7-2 to 7-4. His homer came off former Reds pitcher Tanner Rainey after Rainey walked Joey Votto.
Aquino was named National League Player of the Week after hitting six home runs and driving in 11 runs last week. He is the first Reds rookie to do it since Hal Morris in 1990. And Aquino did it in his first week as a major leaguer.
Incredibly, he is the first player in Major League history to hit eight home runs in his first 12 major league games (counting one pinch-hitter appearance last season).
The Reds fell 7 1/2 games behind the division-leading Chicago Cubs and lost a game in the wild card chase to the Nationals, one of several teams they are chasing.
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The luck of the draw put the Reds in a favorable position for this three-game series, but luck wasn’t with them in Game One.
They won’t have to face one of the game’s best pitchers, Max Scherzer (injured list) and they miss pitcher Patrick Corbin. And star outfielder Juan Soto is absent (ankle injury).
The Reds took a 1-0 lead on the first pitch of the game from Nationals starter Erick Fedde. Jesse Winker homered to left field, his 10th opposite field home run this season.
But third base coach J.R. House cut short an additional rally in the inning. After Winker’s home run, Joey Votto walked and took second on a ground ball.
Josh VanMeter singled to shallow center. House waved Votto homeward and center fielder Gerardo Parra’s throw erased Votto, 35 and slew-footed, from here to eternity.
DeSclafani started the bottom of the first with strikeout, walk, strikeout. That brought up Reds-killer Matt Adams. He cleared the center field wall, his 17th home run and 48th RBI in 72 career games against the Reds.
The Nationals weren’t finished. Asdrubel Cabrera doubled off the right-center wall and Parra singled for a 3-1 lead.
Cincinnati retrieved one run in the second on Tucker Barnhart’s single and a double by Jose Iglesias, back in the lineup after missing three games with a tight shoulder.
Washington’s 3-2 lead expanded to 6-2 in the fourth when DeSclafani gave up singles to No. 8 hitter Victor Robles and pitcher Fedde. Both came with two outs and nobody on and he had two strikes on Fedde, who had one hit all year.
Leadoff hitter Trea Turner then reached the left field seats for his three-run home run.
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The Reds threatened in the sixth, putting two on with one out. Aristides Aquino struck out. Nick Senzel grounded out and the threat evaporated.
Fedde left after six innings, giving up two runs and six hits, replaced by Junior Guerra in the sevneth.
Jose Iglesias, leading baseball with two-strike hits, doubled with two strikes in the second and tripled on two strikes with one out in the seventh.
Pinch-hitter Jose Peraza struck out and Winker lined to center and another runner in scoring position was left standing.
Relief pitcher Amir Garrett began his eight-game suspension Monday and he can’t be replaced on the roster. So the Reds were playing with a 24-man roster, one short in the bullpen.
Kevin Gausman contributed two scoreless innings (one hit) and was replaced in the seventh by a fresh Jared Hughes.
He was not so fresh on the mound. It was his first appearance in nine days and first after coming off his three-game suspension.
He gave up a leadoff double to pinch-hitter Howie Kendricks and a run-scoring single to Turner, his fourth RBI of the night.
Adam Eaton drilled a single off first baseman Joey Votto’s glove, putting runners on second and first with no outs. A double play rescued Hughes.
After Aquino’s eighth-inning home run cut the deficit to 7-4, Hughes loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom half. He escaped by getting Turner on a ground ball.
Washington left handed closer Sean Doolittle, wearing white-framed glasses, watched his first pitch of the ninth drilled over the left field fence by Phillip Ervin and it was 7-5. Jose Iglesias had two strikes again, fouled off three and, sha-zam, singled to right field.
And the Reds had the potential tying run at bat with no outs. Jose Peraza popped out. Pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer flied to right. Joey Votto fouled off a 3-and-2 pitch off catcher Kurt Suzuki’s glove, fouled off another pitch, fouled off another pitch, then drilled a double off the left field wall and it was 7-6.
That brought up Eugenio Suarez and he was intentionally walked to Doolittle could face left hander Josh VanMeter (the Reds had no pinch-hitters left. VanMeter swung at the first pitch and popped out, leaving the tying run on second.
And it was another one-run defeat.