By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — For the Washington Nationals, it was no Daniel Murphy, no Ryan Zimmerman and no problem against the Cincinnati Reds.
Even with two of their superstars out of the lineup Saturday afternoon in Great American Ball Park, the Nationals were unimpressed with young Reds pitcher Luis Castillo or anybody else the Reds ran to the mound.
As a Nationals executive said before the game, “Matt Adams usually fills in pretty good when Zimmerman is out.”
And Saturday was point emphasized.
Adams crushed a three-run home run in the first inning against Castillo and the Nationals never even glanced over their shoulders en route to a 13-7 victory, their second straight over the Reds to start the season.
That’s 13 runs, 14 hits and four home runs with no Murphy and no Zimmerman and Bryce Harper going hitless, although he contributed two sacrifice flies.
The executive didn’t mention leadoff hitter Adam Eaton, a graduate of Kenton Ridge High School near Springfield.
They couldn’t get Eaton out — a career-best five hits, four runs scored, two doubles and a home run and three RBI. Everything but a partridge in a pear tree.
“What a difference Eaton would have made for them if they had him all year,” said Reds manager Bryan Price. “He is a terrific player and they spent a lot to get him in that deal.”
The Nationals traded three top-level prospects to the Chicago White Sox in December, 2016, to get Eaton, but he was injured all of last season and played only 23 games.
“He is that guy when you know you may be one piece away, a speed guy at the top of your lineup who gets on base and has some power, they think he is the guy who is the difference-maker. With him at the top, they have a really nice batting order.”
If only Price and the Reds could find, “That one piece.”
Castillo staggered through five innings and gave up runs in four of them His line was five innings, six runs, six hits, one walk, six strikeouts. Three of the hits and three of the runs were part of Eaton’s offensive line.
Price, though, was not distraught over what he saw because Castillo mostly struggled with his fastball command.
“They were fastballs left out over the plate, good pitches to hit, and good teams don’t miss those,” said Price. “That’s a seasoned team that takes advantage of mistakes. Stuff alone doesn’t win ball games.
“He still has a lot to learn and one of the important things is pitch execution,” Price added. “That will get better because he competed in the strike zone. He didn’t pitch behind or walk guys. Six strikeouts and one walk? We’ll work with that. He competes in the strike zone, that’s for sure, and that’s what we want.”
Castillo was in trouble from his first few pitches and never steadied himself.
He gave up a leadoff single to Eaton and walked Anthony Rendon, an open invitation for trouble.
And first baseman Matt Adams accepted the invitation by crushing a three-run home run to right center field and a 3-0 Nationals lead with only one out in the first inning.
After a quick 1-2-3 second inning, Castillo gave up run in the third, although it was not all his doing. Eaton drove one to deep center over Scott Schebler’s head that bounced over the wall for a ground rule double. It was a ball that Billy Hamilton could have caught, but he can’t catch a ball sitting in the dugout. Hamilton was out of Saturday’s lineup and Schebler was in center.
Anthony Rendon followed Eaton’s double with a single to left that sent Eaton scampering to third and Eaton scored on Bryce Harper’s sacrifice fly to left to make it 4-0.
It became 5-0 in the fourth when Trea Turner opened the inning with a home run to left field.
Meanwhile the Reds had a couple of hits in the first with one out and didn’t score against Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg had retired 11 straight when he got the second out of the fourth inning and the Reds had gone the first 12 2/3 innings of 2018 without a run.
Scott Schebler ended that by lifting Strasburg’s first pitch with two outs in the fourth and dropped it into the right field seats for a home run, cutting Washington’s lead to 5-1.
The Nationals retrieved that one run in the fifth the same way they scored in the third. Eaton doubled for the second straight time, his third hit, and eventually scored on Harper’s sacrifice fly, just as he did in the third, and it was 6-1.
The Reds reached Strasburg for a pair of runs in the sixth, but it could have been many more because they had the bases loaded with no outs after shortstop Trea Turner bungled a double play ball for an error.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Scooter Gennett shot a run-scoring single to left. But Scott Schebler popped a foul ball to third, Adam Duvall hit a sacrifice fly to deep center for the second run of the inning and Jose Peraza struck out, leaving the Reds three runs down at 6-3.
Eaton pushed the advantage back to four runs with a home run off Austin Brice to lead off the seventh inning.
The Reds again filled the bases with no outs against Strasburg in the seventh. This time they didn’t score.
Strasburg struck out Eugenio Suarez on a called checked swing. Left hander Sammy Solis was brought in to face Joey Votto and he struck out on a called strike three. Gennett left the bases full by grounding out to the pitcher.
Eaton struck again in the eighth, blooping a two-out bases-load single to left for two runs to make it 9-3.
Scott Schebler led the eighth with a double and Adam Duvall dropped a two-run homer onto the lawn behind the center field wall as the panting Reds tried to keep pace, 9-5.
Just to make certain the Reds knew who was in charge of this game, Washington’s Brian Goodwin hit a ninth-inning grand slam off Kevin Quackenbush after The Big Q walked a couple. When the computer numbers quit spinning it was 13-5.
When it finally ended, the Nats had four home runs off four different Reds pitchers. They scored six runs off starter Castillo and seven runs off three different Reds relief pitchers — on off Austin Brice, two off Jackson Stephens and four off Kevin Quackenbush.