By Hal McCoy
Graham Ashcraft put nine runners on base in the first four innings, Jake Fraley made the third out of an inning trying to go from first to third and Jonathan India was picked off first base with the bases loaded and two outs.
And they stranded 16 runners.
No big deal. The Cincinnati Reds still annihilated the Washington Nationals, a team with the energy of a dead battery, 9-2, Wednesday night in Nationals Park.
Welcome to the 2023 Cincinnati Reds, a team that plays with the energy of the Energizer Bunny.
Home might sweet and it might be where the heart is, but Nationals Park is an ugly place for the Nationals, who have lost 13 of their last 14 in their home-not so sweet home.
The Reds? They’ve won 19 of their last 23 and 18 of their last 21 games on the road.
With their third straight win over the Nationals in the four-game series, they clinched their eighth series win in their last nine.. And they fell behind, 1-0, in the first inning, so they staged their 31st come-from-behind win.
Resurgent Joey Votto tied it, 1-1, with a leadoff home run in the second, launching a three-run inning. It was Votto’s second homes run in his last two starts and he added two single after breaking out of a 0 for 21 skid.
His home run provided the Reds with at least one home run in 19 straight games, not done by a Reds team since 1956 team that set a record, since broken, with 221 home runs.
And to add to the fun, the Reds stole four bases and are 11 for 12 in the series. For the year they have swiped 105, 12 more stolen bases than their 93 home runs.
When Elly De La Cruz came to bat in the second, Wasington manager Dave Martinez challenge a gizmo on the knob of his bat. After a long umpire caucus, De La Cruz was ordered to use another bat.
In the meantime, MLB officials in New York informed crew chief Adrian Johnson that what De La Cruz had on his bat is legal. It was a sensor that measures bat speed.
When De La Cruz led the fifth, he nearly knocked down the Washington Monument with a 455-foot home run into the upper deck. As he left the batter’s box, he pointed to the gizmo on the knob of his bat and pointed to the Washington dugout.
It was all part of a 16-hit Cincinnati attack with all nine starters contributing at least one hit. Votto and De La Cruz led the way with three hits. De La Cruz had the home run and two doubles. TJ Friedl, Fraley and Will Benson each had two hits as Benson continues to be arguably the best number nine hitter in baseball.
Ashcraft gave up a single, two walks and a hit batsman in the first inning. Only one scored on a wild pitch as the Reds turned their first of three double plays.
He gave up three straight singles to open the second, but the Nationals didn’t score as Lane Thomas popped up and the Reds turned another double play.
From there, Ashcraft was aces. He retired seven of his final eiight batters. He trudged through six innings and gave up one run, seven hits, walked three and struck out two.
Washington starter Josiah Gray, an All-Star, made it known he was poised to beat the Reds because they traded him in 2018 after the Reds made him their No. 2 draft choice in 2018.
After the draft, Gray was quickly part of a major swap. The Reds sent Gray, Homer Bailey and Jeter Downs to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer.
But beat the Reds? Not on this night. In five innings he gave up five runs (three earned), eight hitswalked four and gave up the home runs to Votto and De La Cruz during his five-inning misadventure.
As are the Reds, the Nationals are in a rebuild
Since the Nationals won the World Series in 2019, they have lost through free aqency or trades Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Asdrubal Cabrera and Ryan Zimmerman.
But their rebuild is far, far behind the Reds.