Slowed by a rain delay, even the elements could not prevent the Cincinnati Reds from escaping the nation’s capital with a 2-1 win on Wednesday afternoon.
Coming into the game, Alfredo Simon possessed a road ERA on the season that began with the number zero. He had also won all four of his starts. At the conclusion of Wednesday’s game, his ERA would take the slightest uptick and he would win his fifth contest in five tries.
After a 5-for-5 night on Tuesday for Nationals’ leadoff hitter Denard Span, he cranked his sixth consecutive hit as he led off the game with a solo home run down the right field line. For the third time in the last 11 games, a big fly from the opposing leadoff hitter victimized the Reds.
The rest of the game would be nothing but zeroes from Reds pitching.
As has been the case lately, getting at least a run on the board to help the pitching staff proved problematic.
In a moment out of the ever-expanding Bryan Price playbook, he rallied the troops prior to the top of the fourth inning. With the club yet to get a hit off Nationals starter Tanner Roark, Price had a brief lineup meeting in the center of the dugout, lighting a fire under his dilapidated group.
Responding immediately, Zack Cozart doubled down the line (he would finish 3-for-5 while batting second in the lineup), before Brandon Phillips nearly knocked Roark out of his shoes with a line drive single up the middle that knotted the game back even at one.
Keeping the scoring going, Brayan Pena laced an RBI single to bring home Phillips later in the inning, staking the Reds to a 2-1 lead they would never relinquish.
Chris Heisey came within three feet of finally driving in a run as a starter, after he hammered a Roark offering all the way to the base of the left field fence before Nate McLouth hauled it in to end the threat in the fourth.
This would be far from the Reds last chance. Over the final five innings, they had six hits and drew three walks, but none of those combined well enough to push a run across the plate.
The only batter in the starting lineup to not reach base safely was Devin Mesoraco, who reached on an error by third baseman Kevin Frandsen that almost knocked him backwards with the ferociousness of the contact. Even after going 0-for-4, Mesoraco’s average sits at a frosty .415.
Had the outcome been different, the offense almost assuredly would have been the point of discussion yet again. But luckily for the Reds, two runs was enough to do the trick with the “Big Pasta,” Alfredo Simon on the mound.
On the day, Simon would only allow five hits over his seven innings of work (which easily could have been more), with just two of those hits coming after the second inning. He walked just a single batter while striking out six and winning his team-high sixth game of the season.
The key to his success was limiting the meat of the Nationals order (hitters 2-3-4) to a 0-for-9 day combined under his watch.
Potentially sidetracked by an hour-long rain delay in the middle of the top of the sixth inning, Simon showed no signs of his arm fatiguing by finishing off two more innings before turning the game over to the bullpen.
Battling an atrocious replay decision (hint: there was not only one on the night), Jonathan Broxton managed to weave through the heart of the Washington order to keep the Nats scoreless in the eighth.
Unleashing the missile in an eerily similar situation to Monday night, there would be no need for 15 innings this time around. Rearing back and hitting as hard as 103 MPH on a fastball in the final at-bat to Danny Espinosa, Aroldis Chapman set down the side in order to slam the door on a Redlegs win.
Nothing about the game was particularly pretty, but it got the job done with the team winning a series, and finishing the road trip at .500.
With the day off on Thursday, the Reds will travel home to prepare for a collision with their rival, the St. Louis Cardinals.
The national media recognizes how significant this series is with both Saturday and Sunday’s contests already picked up by Fox and ESPN to be displayed all around the nation.