Faltering Reds aim to get well vs. Nationals

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Jul 24, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA;  Cincinnati Reds pitcher Graham Ashcraft (51) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field.
Jul 24, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Cincinnati Reds pitcher Graham Ashcraft (51) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field.
Image: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The slumping Cincinnati Reds are searching for some relief for their weary pitching staff as they host the Washington Nationals on Friday in the opener of a three-game series

The Reds swept the Nationals in a four-game series in early July in Washington as the Reds capped a run of 20 wins in 24 games


The Cincinnati pitching staff was throttled for a combined 36 runs by the Cubs in two ugly losses at Wrigley Field on Tuesday and Wednesday nights

Ben Lively took one for the team on Tuesday, allowing 13 runs on 13 hits -- including four home runs -- in a 20-9 rout. Catcher Luke Maile allowed five runs in 1 1/3 innings in finishing the game on the mound


The next night, the Reds took leads of 3-0 and 5-2 before the bullpen imploded along with shoddy fielding, and Maile was called on to again pitch in the eighth of a 16-6 loss

"It's not going to change who we are or where we are or anything about any individual on our team or who we are as a team. It's that simple," said Reds manager David Bell

Luke Weaver, who lasted only three-plus innings, appeared to have retired the side in order Thursday night in the third inning. But Maile couldn't handle a swinging strike-three pitch in the dirt, with two out and nobody on. The batter reached base, and the floodgates opened on a three-run rally to put the Cubs ahead 4-1

Chicago went on to a 5-3 victory, and the Reds' loss knocked them out of first place in the NL Central, one-half game behind the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs have climbed within two games of the Reds in the division


On Friday, the Reds send their hottest pitcher to the mound in the series opener in right-hander Graham Ashcraft (6-7, 5.31 ERA). In Sunday's 9-0 win over the Dodgers, Ashcraft allowed just five hits in six shutout innings to record his third win in five starts

Ashcraft limited the Nationals to one run and seven hits over six innings on July 5, earning the win in Cincinnati's 9-2 victory. In his brief career, Ashcraft has made two starts against the Nationals and won them both, posting a 1.38 ERA over 13 innings. He has allowed two runs and 11 hits


The Nationals have been buried in the cellar of the National League East for most of the season, but they are coming off one of their most inspiring wins of the season

Trailing the visiting Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 entering the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday afternoon, the Nationals rallied for a 3-2 win against All-Star closer Devin Williams to hand a costly defeat to a National League playoff contender


It marked just the third time in 61 games the Nationals won a game when they were trailing after eight innings

The Nationals had the bases loaded with no outs, when third baseman Andruw Monasterio threw wildly to the plate trying to get a forceout and keep the tying run from scoring. Instead, the runner from second scored the winning run as well


"As I said all year, they're relentless," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We're going to play hard for 27 outs. We're going to try to compete. And they did it again (Wednesday).

Washington sends lefty Patrick Corbin (7-11, 5.07) to the mound on Friday

Corbin, who is making his 23rd start of the season, is coming off a win in his last start. Against the New York Mets on Saturday, he surrendered four runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings in an 11-6 victory


Things didn't go as well when Corbin started against the Reds on July 4. He was tagged for six runs on 10 hits, three walks and a hit batter over five innings and took the loss in Cincinnati's 8-4 win

Corbin has faced the Reds 14 times, 13 as a starter, going back to 2012, and he is 5-5 with a 4.31 ERA in 79 1/3 innings


--Field Level Medi