Harper, Eaton lead Nationals to sweep of Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 1: Adam Eaton #2 of the Washington Nationals hits a two-run home run in the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 1, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Washington defeated Cincinnati 6-5. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

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CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 1: Adam Eaton #2 of the Washington Nationals hits a two-run home run in the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on April 1, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Washington defeated Cincinnati 6-5. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

For the second time in Cincinnati’s first three games of the season, the Reds got a solid effort from their starting pitcher.

Instead of the offense wasting it, this time, it was Cincinnati’s bullpen.

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Right-hander Sal Romano allowed three runs over six innings on home runs by Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper and the Reds scored five runs over the final four innings, but the Nationals added three runs in the last three innings to hold off Cincinnati and complete a three-game sweep with a 6-5 win before a sparse Easter Sunday crowd of 10,335 at Great American Ball Park.

“They’re doing exactly what we want to do – getting early leads and adding on,” Reds manager Bryan Price said of the Nationals. “They scored in the first inning in all three games. It’s frustrating to lose. We’re hoping for some big changes around here. It’s a long season.”

Harper added a second homer in the ninth – which proved to be the difference in the game – off Raisel Iglesias, just back from paternity leave. Kenton Ridge High School and Miami University product Adam Eaton smacked a seventh-inning two-run homer off right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who was making his Cincinnati debut after being signed as a free agent on Saturday. That shot capped an other-worldly series for Eaton, who finished 8-for-13 with two home runs, two doubles, five runs batted in and seven runs scored.

The late homers were just enough to overcome backup infielder Phil Gosselin’s two-out, two-run homer in the ninth.

“That was a tough loss, but we did a good job staying in the game,” Gosselin said. “It would’ve been nice to come through with a win. We just came up short against a good team. There’s a reason a lot of people are picking them to win it all.”

The Reds never led in the series against the defending National League East Division champions while slipping to 0-3 for the first time since 2003, when they lost the first three games at brand-new Great American Ball Park to the Pittsburgh Pirates. That 1995 team shook off that start to capture the NL Central Division championship.

The Nationals piled up eight home runs in the series.

The Reds will try to avoid their first 0-4 start since the 1995 edition started 0-6 when they meet the Chicago Cubs Monday at 4:10 p.m. on what’s being billed as a second Opening Day, complete with the annual Findlay Market Parade through downtown Cincinnati that was postponed from the official Opening Day.

Friday, in the rain-delayed season-opener, Homer Bailey allowed four hits and one run in six innings, but Cy Young Award-winner Max Scherzer and three relievers combined to keep the Reds from scoring in a 2-0 win.

Bailey allowed that run in the first inning. Two days later, Romano (0-1) got off to a similarly shaky start. Eaton extended to six his streak of consecutive at bats with hits by stinging a sharp one-hopper that caromed off the glove of a diving Joey Votto and through the hole into right field leading off the first inning.

Rendon followed with blast on a one-ball, two-strike pitch to left field that glanced off a sign bearing his last name hanging on the façade of the upper deck. Two batters in, the Reds trailed, 2-0.

Romano walked Trea Turner with two outs before regrouping and retiring the next seven consecutive batters on his way to stringing together four straight scoreless innings before Harper led off the sixth with his first homer of the season.

“I settled in,” Romano said of his outing after the first inning. “I had a hard time with my curveball and changeup. Maybe it was the cold, but I couldn’t get a good grip. That’s not an excuse. The last five innings, I was able to use my sinker and get a lot of ground balls. Being able to get by with one pitch against a lineup like that is definitely a confidence-boost.”

Harper helped the Reds avert their second shutout in three games. Eugenio Suarez was on second base with two outs in the sixth when Adam Duvall launched a drive to deep right field that seemed to be catchable, but got past Harper, who apparently was worried about the wall.

Cincinnati added two runs in the eighth on Gosselin’s leadoff walk, Billy Hamilton’s RBI double – his first hit in eight at bats this season – and Adam Duvall’s bases-loaded double-play ball.

“He was tremendous,” Price said. “He did a great job getting on base in the eighth in his first at bat against (Sammy) Solis, and he was able to stay on top of a good fastball and drive it out to center (for the homer).”

Gosselin, in his first season with Cincinnati, still likes his new team’s chances despite the sweep.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “We just faced Scherzer, (Stephen) Strasburg and (Gio) Gonzalez. I don’t think we’re going to see three better pitchers all year.”

Catcher Devin Mesoraco went 1-for-4 in his first game since suffering a broken left foot when he was hit by a Jose Quintana pitch last Aug. 14 in Chicago.


MONDAY’S GAME

Cubs at Reds, 4:10 pm, FS Ohio, 700, 1410

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