Reds rally in 8th to clinch series over Nats

Reds rally in 8th to clinch series over Nats

CINCINNATI -- The first-place Nationals had not lost back-to-back games in over a month and hadn't lost any game started this month by Gio Gonzalez. Using a four-run bottom of the eighth, the Reds bucked both trends on Saturday for an 8-5 come-from-behind victory over Washington.

Cincinnati was trailing, 5-4, in the eighth when Zack Cozart hit a two-out, two-run double to the wall in center field with the bases loaded off Casey Janssen. Billy Hamilton followed with a two-run single lined to right field that added some cushion during a rally that sent nine men to the plate.

"We had an opportunity there with two outs and two strikes to Cozart and shut the door," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "Janssen left a big breaking ball up to Cozart. At that point, we had an opportunity to make a force play anywhere. It's another base hit. It was pretty much the story of the inning."

With consecutive wins for the first time since May 12-14, the Reds (21-27) have claimed the three-game series. The last time the Nationals (28-21) had consecutive losses came when they dropped a season-high six in a row from April 22-27.

"Today was such a big game," Cozart said. "We wanted to win the series. It's been a while for us to do that. To do it vs. a good team makes it even better. They've been playing well, and obviously, we haven't. To get these two wins and play the way we've played, it makes us know that when we do everything the right way and play hard, we'll be just fine."

Reds reliever J.J. Hoover pitched a 1-2-3 top of the eighth inning for the victory. Aroldis Chapman gave up two one-out walks in the ninth inning but struck out his final two batters for his ninth save.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Taylor gives Nats breathing room:
In the sixth inning, with the score tied at 2, Michael Taylor, who started the game because of a back injury to Bryce Harper, swung at an 0-1 pitch and hit a monster home run that nearly landed in the second deck. It gave the Nationals a 5-2 lead after five-plus innings.

Before getting the start, Taylor was in a 2-for-27 slump with no RBIs.

"[Raisel Iglesias] hung me a slider. I was trying to make contact. I was able to connect. I let the ball go out of the yard," Taylor said. "It was nice to be able to help the team and put us ahead."

Votto goes deep, again: In the third inning, Joey Votto gave Cincinnati a 2-1 lead by driving a 2-2 pitch from Gonzalez over the center-field fence for a two-run homer -- his ninth of the season. That was also two homers in the last two games for Votto, who was previously without a long ball since April 28.

Votto's two-run homer

Gio good enough to win: Gonzalez lasted 5 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on seven hits. Two of those runs came in after he was hit by a pitch for the second time by Iglesias. This particular pitch hit Gonzalez's elbow.

Gio gets hit in two at-bats

"As a pitcher, you want to be as competitive as possible," Gonzalez said. " ... That's just me wanting to go out there and pitch. There is no better way to put it. I have to deal with it a little bit better. I have to be more aggressive in the strike zone." More >

Reds cut deficit in sixth: On the heels of Iglesias putting them down by three runs in the top of the sixth, the Reds scored two in the bottom half against Gonzalez. Brayan Pena hit an RBI single to left field that scored Todd Frazier and made it a 5-4 game. The chance to add on was prevented by reliever Blake Treinen, who replaced Gonzalez and struck out both batters he faced in Marlon Byrd and Cozart.

Pena's RBI single

QUOTABLE
"I like listening to music, I'll tell you that. When I come in after games, if the music is going, I'm happy. I'm glad. We've got the strobe light going on in there and the music playing. It's a good thing." -- Reds manager Bryan Price, on the change in the vibe with two straight wins after his club had lost 10 of 11, including nine in a row

ESCOBAR EJECTED
Yunel Escobar was ejected in the seventh inning after arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher.

Escobar gets tossed for arguing

"From what Andy told me, [Escobar] argued balls and strikes. Fletcher gave him the opportunity to walk away, and he didn't and he threw him out," Williams said.

WHAT'S NEXT
Nationals: Tanner Roark is making his second start of 2015. He made only two career starts against the Reds, in 2014. He is 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA against them. With Stephen Strasburg on the disabled list, look for Roark to be in the rotation for a while.

Reds: Michael Lorenzen, who has a 2.35 ERA over his four big league starts, will get the ball again for Cincinnati in Sunday's 1:10 p.m. ET series finale. Lorenzen allowed one run and two hits over seven innings for a no-decision in his start on Tuesday vs. the Rockies.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.