Harper, Eaton lead Nationals over Reds 6-5 for opening sweep
CINCINNATI (AP) — Bryce Harper finally hit a homer — two, no less. Leadoff man Adam Eaton had another big game. And the starting pitching was exquisite for the third time in a row.
It’s early, but new manager Dave Martinez feels good about what’s going on with Washington.
The Nationals are 3-0 for the fourth time in their history. They last swept an opening series in 2014.
“I know it’s only three games, but I like what I see,” Martinez said.
Starting from the top.
Eaton returned from a knee injury that wiped out most of his 2017 season and figured prominently in all three victories, going 8 for 13 with two doubles, two homers, five RBIs and six runs scored.
Eaton singled and scored in a 2-0 opening win, went 5 for 5 with a homer in a 13-7 victory, and opened Sunday’s game with a single. Anthony Rendon followed with his first homer off Sal Romano (0-1) . Eaton also had a two-run shot in the seventh inning.
“Eaton helped us out a lot last year and then he got hurt,” Harper said, referring to his torn ACL in April. “It’s good to have him back.”
Harper connected for the first time in the sixth and again in the ninth inning, giving the Nationals a franchise-record eight homers in an opening series. He’s homered in the Nationals’ opening series each of the last six seasons.
Left-hander Gio Gonzalez (1-0) threw his best game last year against the Reds, going a season-high 8 1/3 innings for a 5-0 victory on July 14. He handled them again, allowing only five hits and one run while pitching into the seventh.
The Nationals have gotten off to their perfect start with impeccable starting pitching. NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gonzalez allowed only two earned runs combined.
The Nationals’ bullpen struggled to hold it.
Sammy Solis gave up Billy Hamilton’s RBI double in the eighth and loaded the bases with no outs. Ryan Madson induced Adam Duvall’s double-play grounder that undercut the rally. Sean Doolittle gave up Phil Gosselin’s two-run homer in the ninth before fanning Hamilton to get his second save.
The Reds never led in the series, which began with the opener pushed back a day because of rain. Cincinnati is 0-3 for the first time since 2003, its inaugural season at Great American Ball Park.
“They’re doing exactly what we want to do: Get early leads and add on,” manager Bryan Price said. “They scored in the first inning in all three games. It’s frustrating to lose. We’re hoping for some big changes around here.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Eaton on why he was moving slowly after the game: “I don’t know how I look, but how I feel — I feel pretty good. I’ve always kind of old-manned it. You should interview my wife. She’s like, ‘Yeah, he’s always slumped over.’ I walk really slow. And when I jog, I jog like I’m 85 years old. But it’s just me conserving my body.”
Eaton’s leadoff single gave him a streak of six straight hits. He grounded out in his next two at-bats before hitting his homer.
HOPPY TO BE HERE
Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett donned a white rabbit outfit to entertain children as part of a Reds promotion before the game. Gennett said he also dressed as a rabbit one time with the Brewers. He ordered the bunny outfit online.
“It was supposed to be pink,” he said. “They sent me the wrong one.”
Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco made his first appearance since Aug. 14, when he suffered a broken left foot. Mesoraco has been limited to 95 games in the last three seasons because of hip, shoulder and foot injuries. He went 1 for 4 with a single.
Reds: Closer Raisel Iglesias returned from a three-day paternity leave and pitched the ninth, giving up Harper’s second homer. The Reds optioned reliever Jackson Stephens to Triple-A Louisville to open a spot. Stephens gave up a pair of runs in one inning on Saturday.
Nationals: Open a three-game series in Atlanta, with Tanner Roark facing left-hander Sean Newcomb. Roark is 6-3 career against the Braves with a 2.88 ERA in 13 starts and six relief appearances.
Reds: Remain home for a two-game series against the Cubs, who have won 30 of the last 41 games between the NL Central rivals. Tyler Mahle makes his fifth career start and his first against Chicago, which starts Tyler Chatwood.
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