Sunday, August 5, 2018

Starting pitcher Tanner Roark looks to have regained some of his old form and Bryce Harper started and had two hits as the Washington Nationals beat the last-place Cincinnati Reds 2-1 Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park.

The Nationals took three of four games in the series with the Reds, giving Washington back-to-back series wins for the first time since May 30, when the club swept the Marlins and Orioles. The Nationals won both games against the Mets on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The third-place Nationals (57-54) entered Sunday six games back of the first-place Phillies and 4.5 games behind the second-place Braves. Washington is three games over .500 for the first time since June 30.

Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzo threw a pitch behind Nationals leadoff Adam Eaton in the last of the seventh. Eaton stared out at Lorenzo for several seconds and the umpires convened on the infield before play resumed.

Harper was hit with a pitch in the second game Saturday and later in that game Joey Votto of the Reds was hit by a pitch by Ryan Madson in the eighth inning, which upset Votto.

Matt Wieters hit his first homer in more than three months on Sunday to put Washington on the board in the second inning.

It was just the fourth homer of the year for Wieters, who entered the game hitting .195 with a slugging mark of .297. The home run off Reds starter Luis Castillo (6-9) gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

Wieters, who came off the disabled list July 9, had not hit a homer since going deep April 29 against Arizona’s T.J. McFarland, his former teammate with the Orioles.

Harper (2-for-4) gave Washington a 2-0 lead with an RBI double in the third. His hit to left scored with two outs scored Eaton, who had reached on an infield single.

Harper got hit in the kneecap Saturday night with a pitch.

“Huge relief,” manager Dave Martinez said of Harper playing Sunday. “That doesn’t tickle. I got hit there before.”

The Reds got a run in the fourth after loading the bases with no outs on three singles. Mason Williams got the fourth hit in a row to drive in a run, but Roark retired the next three batters to keep the lead at 2-1.

Roark (6-12) pitched well for the third game in a row, allowing just one run on seven hits in seven innings with no walks and two strikeouts. Roark allowed just one run in his previous two starts, over 15 innings. He had lost five games in a row before winning his last three.

“The key for him is to locate his fastball,” Martinez said. “His success is keeping the fastball down.”

Madson retired all three batters in the eighth and Kelvin Herrera pitched the ninth for his third save with Washington. Votto made the last out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth as he took strike three.

Nationals rookie left fielder Juan Soto, 19, had at least two hits in each game Saturday, becoming the first teenager since Hall of Famer Robin Yount in 1975 to get two hits or more in both games of a doubleheader. Soto (0-for-2) walked in his first two at-bats Sunday.

“He takes his walks,” Martinez said of Soto, who made his big league debut May 20. “That is the key. He really pays attention.”

The Nationals won the opener of the series Thursday and then Friday’s game was rained out. The teams split a day-night doubleheader Saturday, with the Nationals winning the nightcap 6-2 as starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson picked up the victory. The Nationals lost the first game Saturday 7-1.

The Nationals are off Monday then host the Braves in a day-night doubleheader Tuesday to begin a four-game series. Washington most likely will use rookie Jefry Rodriquez (0-1, 6.86) in the first game and ace Max Scherzer (15-5, 2.33) in the second contest Tuesday.

NOTES: The National are now 1-3 when Wilmer Difo starts at shortstop. Trea Turner did not start at shortstop but pinch-hit in the eighth … Washington has won just five series this year against teams that currently have winning records … Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman went to Richmond Montgomery High in Rockville. He was a substitute teacher there in the early 1980s with Royals scout Mike Toomey, who grew up in Hyattsville and was at Sunday’s game. Riggleman managed the Nationals from 2009 to 2011.

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