McCoy: Weaver’s Pitching, Votto’s Homer Carry Reds Past Nats, 3-2

By Hal McCoy
Contributing Writer

Luke Weaver discovered Monday night what it takes to put a ‘W’ next to his name during the Cincinnati Reds 3-2 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Weaver’s win, aided and abetted by a two-run home run by Joey Votto, was Cincinnati’s 17th win in its last 21 games. And they are 16-3 in their last 19 road games — The Big Road Machine.

The Reds remained in a tie for first place in the National League Central after Milwaukee came from 6-0 down to beat the Chicago Cubs, 8-6.

Weaver, the Reds starting pitcher discovered that not giving up first-inning runs pays benefits.

In his previous two starts, he gave up three runs in the first inning to the Baltimore Orioles and five to the Atlanta Braves.

The Reds came back to win both games, but Weaver did not earn the victory, a pattern he broke Monday in Nationals Park.

In his previous six starts, the Reds won all six, but Weaver didn’t get the win because the Reds battled back to win after he was removed from the game.

This time it started precariously again when he gave up a leadoff double to Lane Thomas in the first, but he retired the next three.

The Reds gave Weaver a 1-0 lead in the third on Jake Fraley’s one-out single, a single by Spencer Steer and a two-out run-scoring single by Tyler Stephenson.

Two guys enmeshed in deep slumps provided Weaver with the two runs he needed to level his record at 2-2.

Elly De La Cruz, 5 for 36 with 13 strikeouts, poked an opposite-field single leading off the fourth. With one out, Votto lugged a 0 for 21 problem to the plate with 10 strikeouts.

If there was any frustration, Votto took it out on Nationals pitcher Jake Irvin. He drove one 394 feet into the Reds’ bullpen in left center field and the Reds have homered in 17 straight games.

And it gave Weaver a 3-0 lead and was the eventual game-winner.

Slump? What slump, said Votto.

“It’s weird for me to say this, but I was doing fine, I was swinging well,” said Votto during a Bally Sports Ohio post-game interview. “I was getting better every day. I felt great at the plate. I don’t like striking out, but the way I was swinging was leading to productive at bats.

“I came up from Louisville (on rehab) and performed well immediately, but I didn’t think it was long-lasting,” he added. “Now I feel I’m trending in the right direction. It is hard to explain. This game is so tricky.

“My experience tells me to lean into that as opposed to the immediate results,” he said, wearing his hat on backwards as a move to join the team’s young generation. “I know that’s not an answer people really want to hear, but it’s the truth, and I’ve played this way and have been productive this way my entire career. It has served me well.”

As a point of emphasis, at his lowest common denominator, Votto said, “It’s catching up to major-league speed after a crummy, crummy injury (major shoulder surgery). I feel I’m going to play well. I’m confident. I’m glad I was able to help tonight. It’s not fun not performing and not being a part of wins. It was great to be part of one tonight.”

Votto’s two-run homer gave Weaver a 3-0 lead that was chopped to 3-1 when Jeimer Candelario launched a leadoff homer over the center field wall, narrowly missing TJ Friedl’s glove, for a home run.

When Weaver issued a leadoff walk to Candelario in the sixth and a single to Dominic Smith, Reds manager David Bell replaced him with Ian Gibaut.

Gibaut gave up a one-out single to Keibert Ruiz that cut the
Reds lead to 3-2. Gibaut finished the inning by striking out Corey Dickerson, after he fouled off seven pitches, and coaxing a fly ball from CJ Abrams.

The Reds had an opportunity to push across an insurance run or two in the top of the ninth by putting two on. But Matt McLain lined to right and his 0 for 5 ended his streak of getting on base at 23 straight games.

Buck Farmer, roughed up in his previous two appearances, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and Derek Law returned from the injured list to pitch a 1-2-3 eighth.

All-Star close Alexis Diaz trudged to the mound for the 39th time this season, asked to protect the precarious 3-2 lead.

Ruiz popped up. Dickerson singled to deep shortstop, putting the potential tying run on first. Stone Garrett ran for Dickerson and tried to steal second. Luke Maile, who had just entered the game, gunned him down.

All that was left was for Diaz to retire Abrams and he did it with a weak ground ball and Diaz had his 24th save in 25 opportunities.

It is Breakfast & Baseball Tuesday morning when the two teams play the second game of the four-game series at 11 a.m.

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