NATIONALS (25-33) AT REDS (27-31)
1:10 p.m. ET; FS-O, MASN2, MLB.TV
The Washington Nationals have shown signs of turning around their season, although the club routinely has taken a turn in the wrong direction in games started by three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.
Scherzer (2-5, 3.26 ERA) and the Nationals attempt to change that narrative on Sunday afternoon when they face the host Cincinnati Reds in the rubber match of their three-game series.
Washington enters the series finale with plenty of confidence, as the club belted three homers en route to posting its sixth win in eight outings with a 5-2 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday. The Nationals are 17-6 against the Reds since 2016 and 9-1 in their last 10 games at Great American Ball Park.
While those numbers are promising, Washington inexplicably sports a 2-10 mark in games started by Scherzer this season.
Scherzer saw his hard-luck season continue on Monday despite allowing just one run in six innings of a no-decision versus Miami. Scherzer departed with a 2-1 lead, only to see the bullpen and some shoddy defense squander a chance for his first win since May 11 in the 3-2 setback to the Marlins.
“Losing any time is always frustrating whether I am on the mound or not,” the 34-year-old Scherzer said on “The Grant and Danny Show” on 106.7 The Fan, via NBC Sports. “You are always thinking about, anytime that you do lose and you are a part of it, what did you contribute to it and what can you do better.”
Scherzer owns a 4-1 mark with a 2.21 ERA in six career starts vs. the Reds, although Yasiel Puig (5-for-15, four extra-base hits) and Derek Dietrich (8-for-37, two homers) have enjoyed some success against him.
Reds rookie Nick Senzel, who will get his first look at Scherzer, has scored nine runs during his nine-game hitting streak.
Cincinnati will also need to take advantage of its opportunities. The Reds hit into double plays in the first, third and fifth innings to stifle any momentum on Saturday.
“That was the key of the game,” Reds manager David Bell said. “We had the runners on early and didn’t come up with the hits.”
Cincinnati right-hander Sonny Gray (2-4, 3.54) will bid for his third straight win on Sunday after permitting just one run on 10 hits with 16 strikeouts over his last two starts.
Gray sports a 1-0 record with a 4.50 ERA in four career starts vs. the Nationals, although Adam Eaton (6-for-14) and Howie Kendrick (7-for-19) have fared well against him.
Juan Soto, whose career-high 14-game hitting streak was halted on Saturday, is 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs vs. Gray.
Gerardo Parra provided the big blow on Saturday by highlighting his three-hit performance with a three-run shot, boosting his career total to eight homers against the Reds.
“He’s a veteran guy. He loves to play,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said of Parra. “He’s very smart, a smart player. He loves to play the game and I am glad we were able to get him.”
–Field Level Media