By Jamal Collier, Cody Pace and Mark Sheldon
CINCINNATI -- The Reds spent Thursday night traveling home from Colorado and didn't take batting practice on Friday afternoon. The Nationals were well-rested from an off-day on Thursday. But it was the Reds that perked to life for a 7-2 victory over Washington at Great American Ball Park in manager Dusty Baker's return to Cincinnati.
Winners of three games in a row, Cincinnati supported a strong start from Brandon Finnegan with a four-run second inning. Nine men batted against Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez in the frame, collecting six hits. Part of his second straight three-hit night, Eugenio Suarez's RBI single scored the first run before Zack Cozart hit a one-out RBI single and Brandon Phillips added a two-out, two-run single. Suarez returned in the third inning with a one-out solo homer.
"It's definitely big when you get a lead early, especially on a pitcher like Gio, he's really good," Finnegan said. "You've got to get them down. It's fun. I think everything came together for us tonight, and you just play as a team."
Snapping an eight-start winless streak, Finnegan completed 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts. His lone blemish was Jayson Werth's one-out, opposite-field homer in the seventh. Gonzalez dropped his third straight start, and the Nationals' four-game winning streak was snapped.
"One bad inning, it was the second inning and even then I'm going to look at the positive," Gonzalez said. "I threw pitches with conviction. Some of those hits, you just have to tip your cap. There's nothing you can do. I threw some of those pitches where I wanted to throw. … Just tip your cap, they put the ball in play in that situation."
The Reds added insurance with Cozart's leadoff homer in the seventh and a leadoff homer from Adam Duvall in the eighth -- both off Yusmeiro Petit. For Duvall, it was his team-leading 15th homer and eighth in his last 12 games.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Fielding drills pay off: Finnegan certainly had a well-pitched game, but he also did a nice job defensively covering first base on two early ground balls. On the second one, Daniel Murphy's sharp grounder to Phillips' left in the outfield grass forced the second baseman to turn and fire. Finnegan won a foot race to first base and caught the throw for the first out of the top of the second inning.
Another bad inning: Through his first eight starts of the season Gonzalez had the lowest ERA on the Nationals. But he has been hit hard over his last three outings, including in the opening innings Friday, when he was leaving pitches over the middle of the plate. The Reds hammered those mistakes and scored four runs in the second inning, a repeating theme in Gonzalez's starts lately. To his credit, Gonzalez settled down a bit to last six innings, but he allowed five runs on nine hits. His ERA has ballooned from 1.86 after his start on May 18 to 3.94 after this start.
"We need Gio," Baker said. "We need him to break this streak that he's on." More >
Count it: In the third inning with one out, Suarez pulled a 2-0 Gonzalez pitch inside the left-field foul pole. At first, it was ruled a double as it appeared to umpires to have hit the top of the wall. But a crew chief review showed that the ball cleared the fence before bouncing back onto the field for a solo homer. It was Suarez's 13th homer of the season and third in two games. Before Thursday's eruption in Colorado, he was in a 3-for-37 rut.
"It always helps when you get a kid like Suarez, who went through a real swoon there for a while, to come back," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Not even so much the home runs, but being able to drive the ball from left-center to right-center, which is something he was doing so well early in the season."
Playing like he belongs: The Nationals promoted Trea Turner, their No.2 overall prospect as ranked by MLBPipeline.com, to the Majors on Friday to fill in with Ryan Zimmerman out on paternity leave. Turner was batting .310 at Triple-A and continued doing damage at the plate in the bigs, going 3-for-3 with a walk in his first game in the Majors this season.
"You've got different teammates, different stadium. You can't not recognize those. Definitely different," Turner said. "I just wanted to stay calm and keep it simple and try not to make it more than what it was. Just another at-bat just against a little bit better competition."
Despite how strong Turner looked at the plate, the Nationals plan to send him back down to Triple-A when Zimmerman returns, citing some defensive improvements they would like to see before Turner takes over as the starting shortstop. More >
"Having Brandon back healthy, Joey [Votto]'s taking better swings, Jay [Bruce] has been driving the ball well. ... Just a lot of things going right with the offense, and that's a great thing." -- Price, on the Reds' offensive performance the last few games
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Reds challenged a fourth-inning tag play at third base where Turner slid as he advanced on a Bryce Harper single to center field. Turner appeared to beat Billy Hamilton's throw, but his feet-first pop-up slide took him off of the bag for an instant -- enough time for Suarez to apply a tag on the chest. Upon the review, the safe call was overturned, and Turner was out.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: Stephen Strasburg (9-0 2.69 ERA) will aim to improve his unblemished record to 10-0 when the Nationals continue their three-game series with the Reds at Great American Ball Park on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. ET. Washington has won each of Strasburg's last 15 starts dating back to last season, a club record.
Reds:Dan Straily will get the start in the second game of the series on Saturday. Phillips, Bruce and Votto are a combined 8-for-24 with one home run and four RBIs against Strasburg.