Hot-hitting Donovan Solano leads the slumping Reds into D.C. to battle the Nationals

Cincinnati Reds infielder Donovan Solano
Cincinnati Reds infielder Donovan Solano / Mike Stobe/GettyImages
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It may be the City of Brotherly Love, but, apparently, that love is a one-way street. Philadelphia failed to display any kind of affection for the Cincinnati Reds (48-75) as David Bell's group took more punches than Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed combined.

The Phillies swept the four-game set from Cincinnati as the dog days of August continue to take a big bite out of the Reds. After posting a solid 14-12 record in July, the Redlegs have stumbled to an 8-14 mark this month.

If there's any consolation to be had, it's that the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to be even more inept in preventing the Reds from falling to the basement of the National League Central. Nevertheless, Cincinnati trails the first-place St. Louis Cardinals by a whopping 23 games in the division.

Mr. Solano goes to Washington, as the Reds and Nats play a 3-game series in D.C.

This weekend's opponent is all too familiar with the agony of defeat. Even though we have yet to reach September, the Washington Nationals (42-83) have already secured a losing 2022 campaign. Needless to say, the 2019 World Championship season seems light years away for Nats fans.

Since their thrilling seven-game triumph over the Houston Astros in the 2019 Fall Classic, the Nationals have failed to escape the cellar of the National League East. Barring a complete collapse from the Miami Marlins, Washington will finish last for a third consecutive season matching a franchise record streak for futility.

Washington took three of four from Cincinnati during their first meeting at Great American Ball Park in early June. Over the last decade, Nationals Park has been a house of horrors for the Reds. Since 2012, the Reds are 11-20 playing in D.C. and have only captured the season series from the Nats once since the 2016 campaign.

Previewing the pitching matchups: Reds vs. Nationals

Cincinnati Reds starter Mike Minor vs. Washington Nationals starter Cade Cavali

Mike Minor (2-10 6.44 ERA) gets the call in tonight's opener facing Cade Cavalli who will be making his major league debut for the Nationals. It's finally over. Minor's seemingly never-ending nightmare finally came to a merciful ending during his last outing.

Tossing 5.2 innings of not exactly sparkling baseball, five runs, and nine hits, the Cincinnati southpaw was the recipient of a Reds offense that dented the plate nine times against the Pirates to seal Minor's first victory in 11 starts. If the 34-year-old lefty wins consecutive starts it will be his first win over the Nationals in a decade.

Cade Cavalli, the Nationals' No. 4 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, makes his first start in The Show tonight. Washington's first-round selection in the 2020 draft was 6-4 with a 3.71 ERA in 20 starts at Triple-A Rochester. Most impressive is the big right-hander fanned 104 in 97 frames.

Cincinnati Reds starter Luis Cessa vs. Washington Nationals starter Paolo Espino

For whatever reason, Luis Cessa (3-2 5.67 ERA) makes the start Saturday night as Paolo Espino (0-5 4.31 ERA) toes the rubber for Dave Martinez's club. In two starting appearances this year, the Cincinnati right-hander has hurled a total of three innings.

Granted, manager David Bell uses Cessa as an "opener," but for a club that hardly needs to expose a flammable bullpen, it's a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, the numbers bear that out. Cincinnati has been outscored 13-4 in those two starting assignments.

Paolo Espino's luck has to eventually change. The Nationals have won five of his 13 starts, but the right-hander has yet to be rewarded with a victory. However, the 35-year-old Panamanian has struggled of late, allowing eight homers and 40 base hits in his last 33 frames of work.

Cincinnati Reds starter Nick Lodolo vs. Washington Nationals starter Patrick Corbin

Sunday's matinee series finale will feature Nick Lodolo (3-4 4.35 ERA) battling Patrick Corbin (4-17 6.81 ERA) for Washington. It's been an impressive rookie season for Lodolo, but perhaps his greatest strength has been his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark.

The southpaw has only surrendered seven round-trippers in 60 innings this season and hasn't been taken deep in his last three outings. Once he learns to command the strike zone, Lodolo has issued 28 free passes this year, the sky is the limit for Cincinnati's former first-round pick.

If there's one word to describe Patrick Corbin's season, it would be "disaster." He leads the senior circuit in losses, hits allowed, earned runs, and sports an absolutely obscene 1.81 WHIP in 121.2 innings. However, he seems to have cast a spell on Kyle Farmer. The Farm Dawg is just 2-for-13 lifetime versus the 32-year-old southpaw.

Donovan Solano has been the Reds best hitter this season.

In all honesty Reds Country, I can't believe Donovan Solano is still a member of the Reds. In a season where positives have been few and far between, Donnie Barrels has produced highlight reel material nearly on a nightly basis in the batter's box.

Since making his season debut on June 22nd following a hamstring injury he suffered during spring training, the infielder is hitting .333 in 171 at-bats. However, Solano has been almost unstoppable over his last 15 games.

Slashing .414/.462/.500, the 34-year-old Colombian has been punishing opposing pitching staffs. For a Cincinnati offense lacking the offensive presence of Tyler Stephenson and Joey Votto, Donnie Barrels has posed more than a formidable threat.

What makes Donovan Solano such a difficult out is he hits either left or right-handed pitching. In addition, he swings the bat equally as well at Great American Ball Park as on the road.

This season, he's hitting .355 against southpaws while batting .324 versus righties. When he's in the Queen City, Solano sports an incredible .354 average compared to a .315 mark on the road. Needless to say, the man is a hitting machine.

Prediction: The Reds get the better of the Nats.

Let's state the obvious, this is a series for die-hard Reds and Nationals fans only. However, one fanbase is clearly going to be happier than the other late Sunday afternoon.

Reds Country, this will be a weekend to enjoy as the Redlegs take two of three from Washington in the nation's capital to conclude a 10-game road trip before welcoming the streaking first-place St. Louis Cardinals to GABP on Monday night.