CINCINNATI -- One of the areas the Nationals wanted to emphasize coming into this season is starting off fast, scoring first so they can force the opposing team to adjust. To that end, it would be difficult to script a better start to their 2018 season.
Thanks to a hot start from leadoff hitter Adam Eaton in his first games back from a torn left ACL, the Nats' trademark solid pitching and the home run power of their loaded lineup, Washington is 3-0 after completing a three-game sweep of Cincinnati with a 6-5 victory Sunday.
"We talk about it all the time, we want to put the pressure on the other team from the get-go," manager Dave Martinez said. "We've been doing that, and it's good to see. These guys are playing with a lot of energy right now. I know it's only the first three games, but I like what I see."
The Nationals hammered four home runs on Sunday, two-run homers from both Anthony Rendon and Eaton and a pair of solo homers from Bryce Harper, who also made a 4-star catch. It increased their total to eight dingers on the weekend, setting a team record for most homers through the first three games (previous high was six in 2017).
They scored in the first inning of all three games thanks in part to Eaton, who started each game with a single and then scored the game's first run. On Sunday, it came courtesy of Rendon's homer. So by the time left-hander Giovany Gonzalez, who struck out seven in six innings of one-run ball, took the mound in the bottom of the first, he already had a cushion to work with.
"That first at-bat, you usually want to work the count, if anything, and get on base some way, shape or form," said Eaton, who finished the series 8-for-13 with two homers and seven runs scored. "It was nice that we were able to do that a couple times this weekend. It's always part of the plan."
The Nationals never trailed at any point during the three-game series. They have started this season 3-0 for the fourth time in team history and first time since 2014.
"It's huge," Harper said. "Our pitching showed out. From Max to Stras to Gio, they all came out and did their jobs. And also, starting with the top of our lineup with Adam Eaton, he had a great first three games back. Pumped for him and excited to see where he takes us this year."
• Reds fan yells 'overrated' right before Harper demolishes second HR
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Harper provides insurance in ninth In the sixth inning, Harper hit his first home run of the season when he lifted a 3-1 pitch from right-hander Sal Romero into the right-field seats. But his solo home run in the ninth inning against Reds closer Raisel Iglesias would prove to be important, as Reds second baseman Phil Gosselin hit a two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to cut the Nats' lead to one. But Nats closer Sean Doolittle recovered to strike out Billy Hamilton and get the save.
"They scored in the first inning in all three games," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "They were able to add those runs late. It was the deciding factor, without question, in Games 2 and 3."
Rally squashed: Lefty Sammy Solis nearly blew the lead for the Nationals in the eighth when he retired none of the four batters he faced and allowed a run on Hamilton's RBI double. With the bases loaded and no outs, right-hander Ryan Madson was summoned to face Duvall, who represented the go-ahead run. Martinez wanted to stay away from using Madson on Sunday, if at all possible, with the righty having pitched Friday and warmed up in the bullpen Saturday, but Martinez was unable to avoid it.
"He told me in an emergency, if we need him," Martinez said. "That was kind of an emergency."
Madson got Duvall to hit a broken-bat roller for a 5-4-3 double play that scored a run. Madson then got Scooter Gennett to fly out to end the rally.
"I'm just really excited to be a guy they chose to be in that situation," Madson said. "It feels good to me. I really enjoy that. It just feels good to get it done for the team like that."
"I feel strong, I feel good. I don't know how I look. But I feel pretty good. I've always kind of 'old-manned' it. You should interview my wife. Because my wife is like, 'Yeah, he's always slumped over.' I walk really slow. And when I jog, I jog like I'm 85 years old. But honestly, it's just me conserving my body. I wish you guys had a picture of me before, because I always looked like an old man." -- Eaton, on how he feels after playing in three consecutive games
Nationals: The Nationals will go to Atlanta this season for the start of a three-game series with the Braves on Monday. Tanner Roark will make his 2018 debut in his first action in a meaningful game since the end of the 2017 regular season (he did not pitch in a postseason game). First pitch is at 7:35 p.m. ET.
Reds: The Reds continue their homestand with a two-game series vs. the Cubs, beginning at 4:10 p.m. ET Monday. Tyler Mahle will make his 2018 debut against Tyler Chatwood, and the rookie right-hander will be challenged to keep the ball in the yard. Cubs batters have homered in 19 of their last 21 games at Great American Ball Park.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.