Reds’ pitchers paint corners to color Nationals 3-2 losers

Published 2:03 am Wednesday, June 10, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — With a full count in the third inning, Cincinnati Reds starter Johnny Cueto threw a pitch that maybe, just maybe, grazed the outside corner. Ryan Zimmerman had already started on his way to first when umpire Andy Fletcher rung him up.

Different pitcher, different batter, but same result in the eighth. Adam Dunn’s trot toward the first-base bag was halted when Arthur Rhodes’ slider away was judged to have barely painted the black.

And how did the game end? Pinch-hitter Austin Kearns thought he had drawn a low pitch for ball four from closer Francisco Cordero, but Fletcher cranked his arm once more.

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The Reds struck out nine batters in Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over the Washington Nationals, and seven watched strike three go past without a swing of the bat. All Cincinnati’s batters needed were some timely walks and a pair of two-out hits to notch a successful start to a six-game road trip.

Theories, anyone?

‘‘Some of those were counts where a guy had shown some wildness,’’ Reds manager Dusty Baker said. ‘‘And all of sudden — Bam! — he makes a quality pitch. That’s what happens when you get a called strike three.’’

The Nationals didn’t see them all quite that way. Manager Manny Acta said the strikeout of Kearns was ‘‘a really bad call’’ and his players agreed. It’s just the sort of thing that happens to a team that’s lost 11 of 13 and is on pace to lose 100 again this season.

‘‘I guess it’s got to be part of the game, everyone gets it,’’ Zimmerman said. ‘‘Like I said, it seems like we get it more than anyone else.’’

Cueto (6-3) accounted for five strikeouts and allowed only four hits over seven innings, the only noteworthy damage coming on a solo homer by Elijah Dukes in the fourth. The right-hander’s ERA dropped to 2.33 after the sixth start this season in which he allowed one or no runs.

‘‘He’s got dominant stuff,’’ said Cueto’s catcher, Ryan Hanigan. ‘‘Sometimes you get frozen up when a guy hits the corner at 94 (mph) or paints a slider, and he was doing that tonight. I felt like their team had some good at-bats, those guys were trying to wait for pitches to hit, and Johnny was just making pitches and putting guys away.’’

Arthur Rhodes allowed a solo shot by Cristian Guzman in the eighth, and David Weathers and Cordero finished off the victory for the Reds in a game that began after a rain delay of 1 hour, 47 minutes. Cordero pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 15th save in as many chances.

For the Nationals, the game — played before yet another small crowd — was an afterthought on a big day for the club. About 2 1/2 hours before the first pitch, Washington used the No. 1 overall pick in the draft to select college pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, who is billed as the type of franchise player that can help turn around the worse team in the majors.

Ross Detwiler, another recent high draft pick, allowed three runs over six innings to take the loss. Detwiler (0-3), the No. 6 overall selection in 2007, has yet to pitch more than six innings in five major league starts.

Detwiler walked three batters, and the Reds made the most of each one. Jay Bruce was given a two-out pass in the second inning and scored on Hanigan’s single. Detwiler then walked counterpart Cueto on four pitches in the fifth and put Jerry Hairston on base two batters later, keeping the inning alive for Phillips’ two-out double down the right-field line. Cueto and Alex Gonzalez, who had opened the inning by legging out a double to left center, scored on the hit to break a 1-all tie.

‘‘The entire year it’s been the same thing; every time I walk people they end up scoring,’’ Detwiler said. ‘‘I had my opportunity to get out of the inning and just didn’t make my pitch.’’

Notes: The Reds broke a six-game road losing streak to the Nationals. … Jordan Zimmermann had been scheduled to start for Washington, but he was fatigued after throwing a side session on Saturday. His turn was skipped, and he’ll rejoin the rotation on Saturday. … Reds manager Dusty Baker said 3B Edwin Encarnacion is ‘‘about the same’’ after an MRI on Monday and will need more treatment before going out on a rehab assignment. Encarnacion broke his wrist on April 27.