Nationals-Reds Preview

The Washington Nationals have had to deal with injuries to two stars during their stay in Cincinnati.

First, Stephen Strasburg. Then, Bryce Harper.

Harper may again sit for Sunday's series finale with the Reds as the Nationals try to avoid getting swept for the first time in more than a month.

Washington (28-21) lost Friday 5-2 after Strasburg suffered a neck injury in the second inning, as Cincinnati (21-27) got to the Nationals bullpen for four runs.

Before Saturday's game, the Nationals put Strasburg on the 15-day disabled list and then scratched Harper due to a sore back sustained from being hit by a pitch Friday. Washington led by one until Casey Janssen surrendered four runs in the eighth inning to lose 8-5 - the Nationals' first consecutive defeats since a six-game skid April 22-27, which included a three-game sweep to Miami.

Harper's status remains uncertain but said his back still hurt after Saturday's game.

''I tried to get loose but when I went on the field, it didn't feel very good,'' Harper said after missing his first game. ''It's more of a bone bruise. When I swing and I turn, it doesn't feel very good. I don't want to switch anything up. I don't want to try to do something else that I haven't been doing.''

Harper has been on a torrid pace, batting .448 with 13 home runs, 28 RBIs and 23 runs in his last 20 games.

Michael Taylor replaced Harper in the lineup Saturday and hit a three-run homer to break out of a 1-for-27 slump.

Washington touted the seventh-best ERA from its bullpen prior to this series (2.98), but that relief core has given up eight runs over 9 2-3 innings in Cincinnati.

Tanner Roark (1-2, 2.49 ERA) will look to eat some innings Sunday, although it's unlikely the right-hander will last too long in only his second start this season. Roark, who joined the rotation following an injury to Doug Fister, allowed one run and three hits while throwing 66 pitches in five innings in Monday's 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs.

Roark posted a 1.38 ERA in going 1-1 in two starts against Cincinnati last season.

Michael Lorenzen (1-1, 3.12) will start for the Reds, who have won their first series since taking two of three from Atlanta from May 11-13 and will go for their first sweep since opening the season with three wins over Pittsburgh.

Zach Cozart and Billy Hamilton had two RBIs apiece Saturday and Joey Votto homered for a second consecutive day to give him nine on the season. Todd Frazier also contributed with two doubles and two runs and is 7 for 11 with two homers and three doubles in his last three games.

The Reds have won three of four following a nine-game losing streak.

"We wanted to win the series," Cozart told MLB's official website. "It's been a while for us to do that. To do it versus 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."

Lorenzen has been excellent over his last three starts, posting a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings. The rookie right-hander allowed one run and two hits in Tuesday's 2-1 win over Colorado.

Marlon Byrd is 1 for 7 with five strikeouts against Roark and only Cozart - 1 for 6 with a double - has an extra-base hit against the Nationals starter.


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