By Hal McCoy
If there is a bottom to the bottomless pit, the Cincinnati Reds are in a free fall in an effort to find it.
Their fifth straight loss Saturday afternoon was applied by the last place Washington Nationals and force-fed by a pitcher who was 1-12 with a 6.92 earned run average last season.
It was Washington 7, Cincinnati 3 and it wasn’t that close.
The suddenly shaky Reds collected only four hits, three in one inning when they scored all their runs and they committed four errors, two by shortstop Elly De La Cruz on one play.
And the third-place Chicago Cubs beat the Atlanta Braves Saturday, 8-6, and are only a half-game behind the second-place Reds.
As are most MLB teams these days, they called up right-hander Joan Adon from the minors. And to be fair about his 2-12 record last season, the Nationals scored 0 or 1 runs in nine of his 14 starts.
On Saturday in Great American Ball Park, he pitched as if his record was 12-2. He was perfect for 5 2/3 innings, 17 up and 17 down.
And the first 13 Reds never hit the ball out of the infield, seven strikeouts and six gr found balls. Joey Votto finally broke the spell with a fly ball to left.
Reds starter Andrew Abbott’s control panel was on default on this day. In 5 2/3 innings he gave up six runs and nine hits. And he walked five, the most in his professional career that includes his days in the minors.
So it was 6-0 when the Reds came to bat in the sixth and Adon retired the first two — 17 up, 17 down.
Luke Maile ended the perfect game and the no-hitter by punching a single to right. Elly De La Cruz lined a single off Adon’s glove and TJ Friedl crunched a three-run home run into the right field sun deck.
That gave the Reds some life, but the Washington bullpen shut it down the rest of the way.
Abbott (6-3) retired the game’s first hitter, then Lance Thomas singled and stole second. With two outs, Abbott walked Keibert Ruiz on four pitches and Stone Garrett doubled home a run to give the Nats a 1-0 lead.
After Adon struck out the side in the bottom of the first, Abbott started the second by walking the numbers eight and nine hitters. Both runners moved up on a ground ball and Thomas delivered a sacrifice fly and a 2-0 lead.
The Nationals scored three in the fourth when Abbott walked number eight hitter Alex Call for the second straight time. Number nine hitter Michael Chaviz singled and Call came around to score when center fielder Friedl misplayed Chaviz’s hit.
Thomas doubled for a run, stole third and continued home on catcher’s Maile’s throwing error and it was 5-0
The lead expanded to 6-0 in the sixth on back-to-back two-out doubles by Joey Maneses and Ruiz.
Washington added an unneeded run in the eighth off Daniel Duarte on a double by Riley Adams and a bloop double by Llemaro Vargas.
After Friedl’s home run in the sixth, only two Reds reached base the rest of the way. Maile singled with two out in the eighth and Matt McLain walked with one out in the ninth.
Then it all ended when Spencer Steer hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
The Reds have misclocated their mid-season ability to manufacture runs. Fourteen of their last 15 runs have been produced by home runs.