Nats win; Harper gets cut in tantrum
Mike Leake is still winless, and that’s becoming a worry.
Roger Bernadina and Danny Espinosa each hit a two-run homer off Leake on Friday night, setting off one of Washington’s biggest scoring splurges of the season and a 7-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The slow-starting Nationals had scored only three runs in the first inning all season. They had that many before making an out against Leake (0-5), who failed to reach the fourth inning for the second time in his last three starts.
”We’re all concerned,” manager Dusty Baker said. ”We’ve been concerned. As far as we know, he’s healthy. He was getting behind and when you do that, you’ve got to come in. Yeah, we’re concerned, big-time.”
Washington matched its season high for runs by taking advantage of Leake, who lasted a career-low three innings. He gave up seven hits and six runs.
”I’m just not getting the job done,” said Leake, who has a 7.11 ERA. ”I’m not hitting my spots. I’ve got to figure it out. It’s in my head somewhere. I’ve got to find it.”
Leake went 8-4 with a 4.23 ERA as a rookie in 2010. He was 12-9 with a 3.86 ERA last season, leading the staff in wins and strikeouts. So far this season, he’s been ineffective.
”I’m just making it easy on the hitters right now,” Leake said. ”I’m not making it tough.”
The only downside for the Nationals was an ill-advised swing by frustrated 19-year-old outfielder Bryce Harper, who was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. After one of the outs, he returned to the dugout and took a frustrated whack at one of the walls in the tunnel to the clubhouse.
Manager Davey Johnson said the barrel of the bat bounced off the wall and hit Harper next to the left eye, causing a gash and a welt. He stayed in the game with it bandaged, but was sent for treatment afterward because it was bleeding.
Johnson said he’d probably need a couple of stitches and could miss a couple of games.
Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez (4-1) struck out a season-high nine batters – including six in a row – but lasted only five innings because of a high pitch count. His performance came one day after Stephen Strasburg struck out 13 Pirates, including seven in a row, for a 4-2 win.
The Nationals are in first place in the NL East on the strength of their pitching, which had allowed only 93 runs heading into the Cincinnati series – fewest in the majors. Washington’s .237 team batting average ranked near the bottom of the league.
Washington got rolling right away against Leake, who gave up Bernadina’s homer and Adam LaRoche’s RBI double before getting an out. He threw 28 pitches before retiring a batter.
Bernadina also singled home a run in the second. Espinosa hit his second homer in the third inning.
Gonzalez gave up a pair of runs and didn’t allow a homer in one of the majors’ most hitter-friendly ballparks. He hasn’t allowed a homer in his last eight starts since Sept. 23, a span of 50 innings that is the longest such streak of his career. It’s also the longest active streak in the majors.
Jay Bruce hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth, and the Reds had a chance to get back into the game when Gonzalez lost his touch in the fifth. Zack Cozart singled home a run to cut it to 7-2, and Cincinnati loaded the bases with back-to-back walks and only one out. Gonzalez threw a fastball past Bruce for a strikeout, then got Scott Rolen to foul out on his 115th pitch of the game.
The Reds hurt themselves in the eighth. Brandon Phillips was on third when Rolen hit a grounder to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Phillips couldn’t get back in time and was tagged out.
The Reds went on to score one run in the inning, on Ryan Ludwick’s RBI single off Ryan Mattheus, but left the bases loaded again when Cozart struck out.
NOTES: Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman (1-3) starts Saturday’s game against Mat Latos (2-2), who has won his last two decisions. … Johnson, who also managed the Reds, called shortstop Barry Larkin a complete player. ”I’ve managed a lot of great ones,” Johnson said. ”The way he played, he was arguably the best one I’ve managed.” Larkin goes into the Hall of Fame this summer. … Rick Ankiel was out on a weird play in the fifth. His grounder hit first base and popped high in the air. Reds 1B Joey Votto caught it barehanded and threw to Alfredo Simon covering the base.