By Hal McCoy
The Dog Days of August have bitten the Cincinnati Reds like a rabid Rottweiler.
They are 0-for-August after losing their sixth straight game Sunday afternoon in Great American Ball Park, a 6-3 decision to the last place Washington Nationals, a three-game sweep by the Nats.
With three starting pitchers on the injured list — Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Ben Lively — the Reds had to reach down into their minor-league system for Sunday’s starter.
The picked Lyon Richardson, the 13th player to make their major-league debut for the Reds, this season, most in MLB.
And it was definitely an unlucky debut for the 13th Red to debut.
His first two major-league pitches whistled out of the ball park. His first pitch to leadoff hitter CJ Abrams crash-landed in the right field seats. His second pitch was to Lane Thomas and it nestled into the grass behind the center field wall. Two pitches, two home runs, 2-0
Richardson then walked Joey Meneses and gave up a single to Keibert Ruiz — four batters, four batters on base.
He finally retired Dominic Smith, but Jake Alu punched a two-run single and the Reds were down, 4-0, before they took a swing at Nats starter Jake Ervin.
The Reds spent the rest of the afternoon futilely trying to catch up and never did.
Richardson made 74 starts in the minors before his debut and was 5-21 with a 4.24 earned run average. He began this season at low Class A Daytona Beach and climbed the ladder to Class AA Chattanooga and Class AAA Louisville.
In 19 minor-league starts this year he wa 0-2 with a 1.86 earned run average. He pitched for the Dayton Dragons in 2019 and was 3-9 with a 4.15 ERA IN 25 starts.
The Reds chipped away and drew to within 4-3 on a solo home run by Joey Votto and a run-scoring two-out single by Stuart Fairchild in the second and a leadoff home run by TJ Friedl in the third.
But the Nationals scored a run in the fourth off Buck Farmer on a two-out double by Thomas. And they scored a run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Thomas that made it 6-3.
During the three game sweep, Thomas, who came in mired in a slump, went 7 for 13 with two homers, eight RBI and six runs scored.
During the six-game losing streak, the Reds have been outscored, 60-27. And their season-long ability to manufacture runs has disappered. Sixteen of their last 18 runs have come via home runs.
The Nationals lost eight straight games coming out of the All-Star game, but have won six of their last eight. The sweep was their first on the road since they took three straight from the Cubs in Wrigley Field in 2019. And their four-gqme winning streak is their longest since mid-June of 2021.
After Friedl’s home run in the third, the Reds had only two hits and struck out eight times until Tyler Stephenson and Nick Senzel singled with one out in the ninth, giving the Reds hope.
That put runners on second and first with one out and the potential tying run at the plate against Nationals closer Kyle Finnegan.
Finnegan caught Spencer Steer looking at strike three and it came to a close when Stuart Fairchild drove one just short of the right field wall that was caught.
The only other Reds rally after Friedl’s homer came in the fifth inning, one-out singles by Elly De La Cruz and Friedl.
That ended Ervin’s day and Andres Machado came on to strike out Matt McLain and Christian Encarnacion-Strand. CES was batting clean-up for the first time in his short MLB career and went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
The game was not one to make length-happy commissioner Rob Manfred gleefull. It lasted 3:09 due to18 full counts, nine by Reds pitchers and nine by Nationals pitchers.