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Nationals attempt to end run drought in Cincinnati

Sportsnaut
May 29, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Juan Soto (22) hits a double off the right field wall against the Colorado Rockies during the sixth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After a brief two-game excursion to Boston, the Cincinnati Reds return home for the opener of a four-game series against the Washington Nationals on Thursday night.

The Reds begin the back end of a stretch in which they play 15 of 17 games at home. Cincinnati went 4-3 on its latest homestand before splitting a pair against the Red Sox, most recently falling 7-1 on Wednesday in Boston.

The Nationals are coming off an embarrassing showing in New York, where they lost all three games to the Mets and were outscored 28-5 and fell 10-0 and 5-0 on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. The Nationals have lost the first three games of their 10-game road trip.

Cincinnati continues to battle the injury bug, as outfielder Tyler Naquin was placed on the injured list with a left quad strain. Naquin, who slipped in the batter’s box on Sunday, left the Tuesday game against the Red Sox in the fourth inning after he was seen limping following a groundout to first base.

“He’s going to see the doctor, believe he’s also getting a second opinion,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It’s going to be a little while. I think the good news is quads can be a little different than a hamstring, so I think you can come back a little quicker from that.”

Bell said Wednesday that he expects Tommy Pham will be back in the starting lineup for the series opener against Washington after missing the past two games with a strained left calf.

The Reds will send right-hander Grant Ashcraft (1-0, 1.69 ERA) to the mound in the series opener against the Nationals.

Another hard-throwing starter in the mold of Hunter Greene, Ashcraft reached 100 mph several times in his start against the Giants on Friday. He allowed just four hits over 6 1/3 shutout innings, striking out one while walking two en route to a 5-1 victory.

The Reds have won Ashcraft’s first two starts in the majors.

The Nationals will counter with Joan Adon (1-8, 6.08 ERA). The right-hander is tied for the major league lead in losses and wild pitches (six), and he is on his own atop the unwanted list with 29 walks.

Washington has won just one of Adon’s 10 starts this season and the 23-year-old is riding a personal six-game losing skid.

Adon, facing the Reds for the first time in his career, is coming off a tough-luck start against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday. He was tagged with two runs, both unearned, on six hits in six innings during a 3-2 defeat.

Before the Wednesday game against the Mets in New York, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo insisted the team has no interest in trading star outfielder Juan Soto, who under team control through 2024.

“It doesn’t frustrate me,” Rizzo said of the speculation. “I get it. You guys got a blank piece of paper every day to fill up, and this is a very clickable, very writable story. And I can only say it so many times and in so many words what our decision on that topic is.”

Soto, 23, won the 2020 National League batting title when he batted .351, and he hit .313 with 29 home runs in 2021. Through 51 games this year, Soto is batting only .227 with nine homers after going 0-for-4 on Wednesday.

“He’s a great hitter, even though the average isn’t where he wants it to be right now,” Rizzo said. “They pitch him like Babe Ruth. Every team does. I think that when he’s hitting where he’s hitting on June 1, he’s got a lot of hits coming because he’s going to be where he’s going to be because he’s Juan Soto.”

–Field Level Media