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Reds 5, Nationals 0 - Johnny Cueto out-aces Max Scherzer

He aced. He out-aced. He, folks, is an ace among aces.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game

Joey Votto came a triple away from hitting for the cycle on Tuesday, and he did all of his damage against former Cy Young Award winner and $200+ million man Max Scherzer.  Votto dingered, doubled, singled, drove in three runs on the evening, and the Cincinnati Reds 1B looked as locked in as he's been in nearly a month.  Apparently, he tweaked his swing a bit after video sessions and batting practice uncovered something amiss in this afternoon, and that was enough to have him center the ball with precision against one of the best right-handers in the world.

All that was good enough to warrant tonight's first Honorable Mention, because not even that kind of evening against that kind of foe is good enough to top what Johnny Cueto put together.

Cueto tossed a complete game, two hit shutout against the Washington Nationals, the team that was universally considered the World Series favorites entering the season.  He brushed off a pair of errors behind him, walked just a single Nat, and struck out eleven en route to the kind of dominant performance Reds fans have become spoiled with in his eight seasons with the team.  Cueto's currently in the final round of fan voting for next week's All Star Game (vote here!), but tonight's outing is the kind of thing that makes all that superficial stuff seem irrelevant since anyone who saw him on the mound saw one of the absolute best pitchers of the last decade spin yet another gem.

Thanks for the beauty, Johnny.  Have yourself one more trophy.

Other Honorable Mentions are due to:  Jay Bruce, who tripled, singled, and drove in a run; Brandon Phillips, who singled, was hit by a pitch, and scored twice; and Billy Hamilton, who doubled and stole his 42nd base of the season.

Key Plays

  • The Cincinnati bats wasted no time in getting to Scherzer in this one, as Phillips led off with a smoked single.  He took 2B when Dan Uggla glove-flubbed the ball, and that meant BP was able to score on a laser off the bat of Votto that hit the wall in LF and went for a double.  Two batters later, Bruce's towering drive hit off the wall in nearly the same spot, and it ricocheted far enough to allow Votto to score and for Bruce to claim a triple.  Reds led, 2-0.
  • Votto stepped back in the batter's box in the Top of the 3rd and proceeded to hit a Scherzer meatball every bit as hard as the one he blasted in the Top of the 1st, only he got a bit of elevation on the latter, launching it over the fence in LF for a solo dinger.  Reds led, 3-0.
  • Hamilton got things going int he Top of the 5th when he smoked a 1-out double to the wall in left-center and promptly stole 3B.  Phillips was then grazed by a breaking ball on a 3-2 count to put runners on the corners, and Votto stepped in and cracked a single off a Scherzer change-up to drive in Billy.  BP alertly took 3B on the single, and he then scored on a sac fly from Todd Frazier.  Reds led, 5-0.
  • From that point on, Cueto put things in cruise control, and despite their efforts the Nationals stood no chance on the evening.  Reds won, 5-0!
Tony Graphanino

Source: FanGraphs

Other Notes
  • The Reds are currently working on a season sweep of the Nationals, as they're 5-0 against them to date in 2015.
  • Eugenio Suarez added another single tonight and continues to look like the offensive force of a SS he was billed to be.  Just keep hoping the glove rounds into form, since if it does - and Zack Cozart returns from his knee injury alright - the Reds will have top shelf, proven middle infield depth for the first time in ages (sorry, Paul Janish!).
  • Michael Lorenzen will look to rebound from his erratic last outing tomorrow in the series finale, and he'll do so opposite Gio Gonzalez.  First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.
  • King Tunes for King Cueto.  Wish you'd gotten your crown in 2012.