Nationals lose 3-2 to Reds

WASHINGTON (AP) — The defeat itself was tough enough to swallow. Losing the top two players in the batting order, well, that pretty much made the night a total loss for the Washington Nationals.

Center fielder Denard Span and second baseman Yunel Escobar were gone by the fifth inning, and the Nationals yielded a late run and fell to the Cincinnati Reds 3-2 Monday.

Span came out in the third and Escobar was replaced by a pinch hitter in the fifth.

“Denard left the game with a back spasm and Yunel left the game with left hamstring tightness,” said manager Matt Williams, who was unwilling to speculate on the severity of the injuries.

Span has been plagued by back issues for a good part of the season, and thus far nothing has completely eradicated the problem.

“We’ve changed programs. He’s strengthening, he’s stretching, the trainers are doing everything that they can possibly do,” Williams said. “So we’ll just continue to monitor, continue to do what we’re doing. Some days it’s great, some days it just pops up on him.”

Escobar was hurt legging out a slow roller to third base in the third inning, Williams said.

The departure of those two teammates didn’t escape the attention of Nationals starter Doug Fister, who had his own problems, allowing eight hits in six innings.

“Unfortunately we didn’t have Denard and Yuni tonight. Hopefully they’re back in (Tuesday),” Fister said. “We want them healthy and ready.”

Danny Espinosa homered for the Nationals, who had won 12 of 15 overall and were unbeaten at home over nine games since June 18.

Eugenio Suarez went 3 for 4 with two RBIs to help the Reds snap a three-game skid and improve to 4-0 against Washington this year, clinching the season series.

With the score knotted at 2, Suarez hit a liner off Casey Janssen (0-2) that barely stayed inside the left-field foul pole that stands 336 feet from the plate.

Manny Parra (1-1) worked the seventh and Aroldis Chapman got three outs for his 17th save. One of Chapman’s fastballs was clocked at 103 mph.

Fister gave up at least one hit in every inning but allowed only one earned run.

“For me, there’s some inconsistency there on the mound,” the right-hander said. “I’m not making quality pitches at times that are needed. Just fighting with myself a lot, trying to get the ball down, really trying to get in a rhythm, and it’s a battle for me.”

Cincinnati went up 2-1 in the sixth. Marlon Byrd led off with a drive off the top of the right-field wall that was initially called a double, then switched to a home run, then ruled a double again after a replay review. It didn’t matter much, because Suarez followed with an RBI single.

Espinosa tied it in the bottom half with his ninth home run, a shot to right on a 2-1 count.

After a 29-minute rain delay interrupted the first inning, the Reds scored an unearned run in the second on a two-out RBI double by starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the No. 8 hitter.

Washington pulled even in the third when Matt den Dekker came home on a two-out wild pitch. He entered in the top half for Span.

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