What happened to the Cincinnati Reds Thursday night in nation’s capital, especially to starter Tyler Mahle, can be safely called capital punishment.
After two horrendous mistake-filled defeats in Detroit, reports out of the Reds clubhouse was that manager Jim Riggelman verbally lashed the team for its ineptitude on the basepaths and defensively.
It didn’t work. The Washington Nationals tore into Mahle for six runs in the second inning en route to a 10-4 victory.
The beneficiary of those early six runs was Washington starter Mad Max Scherzer, 15-game winner and the All-Star starter. Giving Scherzer a six-run lead is like giving him a 75-yard head start in a 100-yard race against a camel.
And he took full advantage.
He pitched six innings and gave up two runs and four hits while striking out 10.
Before the game, Fox broadcaster Jim Day asked Eugenio Suarez what it would be like facing one of baseball’s best pitchers and he said, “He’ll be facing one of baseball’s best hitters.”
Scherzer struck out Suarez in the first inning, then Suarez launched a 408-foot two-run home run. The home run gave Suarez the National League RBI lead with 83. And it came behind a single by Scooter Gennett, Gennett’s fifth straight hit off Scherzer. He went 3-for-3 on Opening Day against Scherzer and had hits his first two at bats Thursday.
Scherzer got even. Suarez flied to center his third time up and Gennett struck out.
Mahle pitched a 1-2-3 first inning. The second was a natural disaster. Mahle faced 10 batters and eight reached base. Of the six runs, five scored with two outs.
A sacrifice fly by Matt Wieters gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead, but it was the second out. Then came a run-scoring single by pitcher Scherzer, a hit by pitch, a two-run single by Trea Turner on a 0-and-2 count and infield hit to fill the bases and a walk to force in a run to make it 5-0. Keury Mella came in and issued another walk that was charged to Mahle before the six-run inning ended, an inning during which Mahle threw 37 pitches.
It was Mahle’s fourth straight bad outing and the shortest start of his major league career.
Mella, despite falling behind nearly every hitter, saved the bullpen by pitching 4 1/3 innings. He walked four and gave up three hits, but only one run.
After Suarez’s home run cut the lead to 7-2, the Reds put two runners on base with two outs. But Riggleman, not wishing to ravage his short bullpen, made short because the team has six starters, permitted Mella to bat and he struck out.
The game got totally out of hand in the eighth inning when closer Raisel Iglesias was brought in just to get him some work.
He gave up a two-run home run to Trea Turner and a 487-foot upper deck shot to the moon by Bryce Harper that made it 10-2.
The Reds scored two meaningless runs in the ninth inning against Jimmy Cordero, making his major league debut. He retired the first two before Jose Peraza, who was 0 for 11 on the trip, cracked a two-run double.
And the game was not without a couple of Reds mishaps. For the second straight game, nobody covered second base on a stolen base attempt and this one was on a pitch out. Peraza failed to corral a pop foul down the left field line.
The game was the first in Washington for Riggleman as a manager. He managed the Nationals before walking away from the job in mid-season in a contract dispute. He grew up in nearby Maryland and played youth baseball there, delivered the Washington Post and caddied at the Woodford Country Club.
But he didn’t enjoy the first night of this homecoming.