WASHINGTON (AP) — After watching his team commit four errors in a bad loss the night before, after putting Joey Votto on the disabled list before the game, after watching his team go hitless through the first three innings, Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price decided it was time for a pep talk.
So he called a team meeting, right there in the dugout before the start of the fourth inning.
“You know, sometimes you need a little kick in the butt,” shortstop Zack Cozart said. “And he did it.”
And his team responded. The next two batters scored, supplying all the runs Cincinnati would need Thursday in a 2-1 win over the Washington Nationals that allowed the undermanned Reds to split a six-game road trip.
“He really fired this lineup up,” first baseman Brayan Pena said. “It was a very, very clutch speech from the skipper. … I didn’t know he could speak like that.”
Cozart started the inning with a double. Brandon Phillips followed with an RBI single. Devin Mesoraco reached on third baseman Kevin Frandsen’s error, setting up an RBI single by Pena that scored Phillips.
Granted, it was only two runs, but the Reds lead the league in one-run losses. Their offense has been struggling without Votto and Jay Bruce, who came off the DL on Wednesday. The pair of runs were just enough to support Alfredo Simon (6-2), who weathered a 61-minute rain delay to allow one run over seven innings.
“We have the ability to do more offensively,” Price said. “And we know we’re better than we’ve performed. … We can talk about treading water until we get whole again, but when you look at that lineup, it’s not a lineup that’s going to embarrass me or any opponent. That’s a lineup that’s going to go out there and have the ability to score runs.”
Yet, despite his players’ glowing words, Price didn’t want to connect the dots between his speech and the fourth-inning rally.
“I don’t really care to talk about it,” he said. “We just got together collectively and decided to make a rally. … There’s nothing really important or significant, to be honest with you.”
Simon gave up a leadoff homer to Denard Span in the first, worked out of a jam in the second, then allowed only three more baserunners as the Reds took two of three from Washington. Simon threw two innings after the storm.
Jonathan Broxton handled the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman pitched a one-two-three ninth for his third save, hitting 103 mph on the stadium’s radar gun while striking out Danny Espinosa.
Tanner Roark (3-2) allowed six hits and two runs — one unearned — over six innings for the Nationals, who have their own share of lineup-depleting injuries and have been just as up-and-down as the Reds.
“Right now, we’re banged up, man,” Span said. “It’s tough because I still feel like we’re playing good baseball, even with our circumstances right now.”
If nothing else, the game was notable because it contained overlapping replay and rain delays. Everyone was awaiting the ruling on a challenge by Price on Todd Frazier’s steal attempt in the top of the sixth when the grounds crew came out with the tarp. The four-minute replay delay yielded no change: Frazier was out, as signaled by the four umpires huddled near the third base line in a downpour after players had scampered toward the dugouts.
NOTES: Votto has missed six games with a quadriceps strain in his left knee. His move to the DL is retroactive to May 16. … Bruce was reinstated but did not play. He had arthroscopic surgery May 5 to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. … Reds OF Ryan Ludwick was given the day off because of some swelling just above his kneecap. … RPH Blake Treinen will be called up to start for the Nationals on Thursday, when they begin a road series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. RHP Ryan Mattheus will be sent down the minors to open up the roster spot.