Washington Nationals Rout Cincinnati Reds, 10-6

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 16, 2009

CINCINNATI, Aug. 15 -- The Washington Nationals are not natural antagonists. During an earlier portion of the 2009 season -- back when they championed an aggressive do-no-right platform -- they took the beatings, booted the balls and introduced every sort of red-faced loss imaginable. Last time the baseball world bothered to look, the league's very worst team was an uncomplicated bunch, easy to lampoon.

That's changed. Now, they are complicated. They are unpredictable. Sometimes, they are even dangerous. In another clear confirmation of their Jim Riggleman-driven improvement, the Nationals on Saturday inflicted the sort of beating they once received, with no exceptions.

Their 10-6 lashing of the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park hardly qualified as either their greatest blowout or their most compelling triumph.

But the win, in which Washington led 10-1 after four innings, qualified for at least one superlative: In no prior game this season did the Nationals briefly cause an opponent to look so much like, well, the Nationals.

For starters, loser Johnny Cueto (2 2/3 innings, seven earned) pitched a lot like Daniel Cabrera, managing only to avoid base hits when bouncing wild pitches in the dirt or pegging hitters in the back. His final inning alone granted the Nationals more runs (six) than they'd scored in their previous four games combined (five).

Midway through the third, Washington led, 7-0, and, already, a Cincinnati fielder had kicked a ball he was attempting to field, a Cincinnati hitter had been called out for running into his own bunt, and a Cincinnati coach (Brook Jacoby) had been thrown out of the game for arguing.

In what was perhaps Cincinnati's lone consolation, Manager Dusty Baker at least had one reliever well-suited for innings where absolutely nothing is at stake. Thereby, former Washington pitcher Kip Wells took the mound for the Reds.

This win, Washington's second in a row following a three-game losing streak, helped the team break from a mini-slump. Washington's offense had gone just 25-for-125 (.200) with four extra-base hits during the first four games of this trip. But since the all-star break, the Nationals have learned to fight off problems before they become Problems.

"Just a mind-set, really," said right fielder Elijah Dukes, who went 2 for 4 with 3 RBI. "Part of the package is being able to stop those losing streaks and start our own winning streaks."

Added Riggleman: "Yeah, you have to do that, and the way you generally do it is a so-called stopper goes out there for you in the rotation and stops the losing streak. We've done it offensively."

To that end, the team went to work against Cueto, the Cincinnati right-hander who also started the July 6 game the Reds lost, 22-1, in Philadelphia.

To start the second inning, Adam Dunn, with some impressive opposite field hitting, waved at an outside pitch and knocked it about two feet beyond the left field wall. Then, in the third, the Nationals did just about everything but homer.

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