WASHINGTON -- In what has been a trying year, the Reds' offense would have loved to have more success stories during the first half of the season. Even if it did, it would have been hard to top what was done on Tuesday night.
The Reds roughed up ace Max Scherzer for a 5-0 victory over the Nationals to back a superlative two-hit shutout, 11-strikeout performance by their own ace -- Johnny Cueto. Scherzer lasted 4 2/3 innings and allowed a season-high five earned runs for his shortest performance since Aug. 24, 2014.
"I think he's had a fantastic first half," Reds first baseman Joey Votto said. "He's probably the frontrunner to start the All-Star Game, and any time you have a good game against a pitcher of that level, I think it stands out."
In a 3-for-5 night, Votto had three hits in his first three plate appearances -- an RBI double in the first inning, a solo home run in the third inning and an RBI single in the fifth inning. The homer, his first since June 13, gave Cincinnati a 3-0 lead.
Jay Bruce added an RBI triple in the first inning.
In his previous four starts, Scherzer had a 1.04 ERA and 42 strikeouts while he worked at least eight innings each time out.
"I thought we got on him early," said third baseman Todd Frazier, whose sacrifice fly in the fifth provided the fifth run of the game. "We knew he threw strikes, so if he's throwing strikes, you've got to be able to square the ball up, and as a whole, I think we did that early and often. We got the pitch count up, saw some pitches and basically just got on him.
"When you get on a pitcher of his caliber, you really have to keep going. We had two runs, another two and another one. That was basically the game, and Johnny just tore it up after that."