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Reds slug their way past Nats in opener

CINCINNATI -- Using a three-run bottom of the sixth and Todd Frazier's home run in the seventh, the Reds claimed a 5-2 victory over the Nationals on Friday in the opener of a three-game series.

Washington, which lost starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg only 16 pitches into his night because of tightness in a neck muscle, took a one-run lead in the top of the sixth on Wilson Ramos' RBI single, which scored Ryan Zimmerman.

Cincinnati began the night having lost 10 of its previous 11 games but answered in the bottom half of the sixth against reliever Taylor Jordan. Pinch-hitter Brandon Phillips drove in a run with a sacrifice fly before Billy Hamilton and Zack Cozart followed with two-out RBI singles. In the seventh, against Blake Treinen, Frazier hit his 15th homer of the season -- and third in the last four games -- a solo shot to left field.

"Having the off-day [on Thursday] was bigger for us mentally, not so much physically, and I think we came out today on the attack a little more offensively, and our pitching and bullpen did their job," said Cozart, who snapped a 2-for-33 funk with a 3-for-5 game. "It makes it a little easier on them when you score five runs instead of just one or two runs to make them grind out there."

Anthony DeSclafani pitched six innings for the win, allowing two earned runs on eight hits, with two walks and one strikeout. In the eighth, after reliever Tony Cingrani walked the bases loaded with two outs, J.J. Hoover fanned Ian Desmond to preserve the lead.

Injury ends Strasburg's night: Strasburg left in the bottom of the second after pitching only one-plus innings, allowing two hits, one of them a solo homer by Joey Votto.

In the second, after Strasburg allowed a leadoff walk to catcher Brayan Pena, he was removed by manager Matt Williams and replaced with Jordan. He'll be evaluated on Saturday.

"We'll see how he is tomorrow and evaluate. We'll see what he shows up with tomorrow," Williams said. This [injury] is new, so we have to address it." More >

Video: WSH@CIN: Strasburg leaves the game with an injury

Leaving them loaded: Inheriting the bases-loaded jam from Cingrani gave Hoover a chance to build confidence in a high-leverage situation in the top of the eighth. On a 2-2 count, Hoover shook off Pena's call for an offspeed pitch and instead sent a 97-mph fastball to get strike three and escape the situation.

Video: WSH@CIN: Hoover fans Desmond to escape the jam

"That was a lot of fun," Hoover said. "Until he proved he was on my heater, I didn't want to lay up an offspeed pitch. The fastball is my best pitch. I wanted to beat him with my best."

Nats have up-and-down night: Down, 1-0, the Nationals scored runs in the fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, Desmond tied the score at 1 with an infield single that scored Taylor. An inning later, Zimmerman scored on a single by Ramos. Overall, though, the Nationals ended up 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

"I think we are a pretty confident group," Desmond said. "The way the season goes, it's a long year. You want to drive in every run with runners in scoring position. But it doesn't work that way. If it did, there would be a lot of high-scoring games. We are getting runners out there. Eventually, we are going to knock them in. We've proven that in the past, and I don't see any problem in the future."

Votto cashes in with homer: When Votto took Strasburg deep to left-center in the first inning on a 2-2 pitch, it was his eighth homer of the season, but his first in almost a full month -- the last came on April 28.

Video: WSH@CIN: Votto opens the scoring with a solo homer

"It's been a while," Votto said. "A couple of weeks ago, I lost my wallet. I have a green card in there, and my driver's license, credit card and cash and everything. I didn't know where it was for, like, two weeks. You ever lose your wallet? It's so annoying, right? Then finally, I found it. It was in my car -- one of the door compartments. That's how I feel with my swing -- I finally found my wallet."

Cingrani drills Harper: With the Reds leading by two runs in the seventh, with two outs and a runner on second base, the left-handed Cingrani was summoned to replace Jumbo Diaz and face Harper. Cingrani's first-pitch fastball struck Harper hard on the back between the numbers. Harper said something to Cingrani as he took his time heading to first base. Votto took exception to Harper's display and had words with him as umpire Andy Fletcher stepped between them.

Video: WSH@CIN: Harper hit in the back, exchanges words

"I threw it as hard as I could, and it ran up and in and hit him. What are you going to do?" Cingrani said. "He should have jogged, but what are you going to do? Be a baseball player. Sorry I hit you, run." More >

Nationals: Left-hander Gio Gonzalez takes the mound on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. ET. He has had his way against the Reds during his career. In five starts, he is 2-1 with a 1.06 ERA against them. In his most recent start, Gonzalez lasted 6 1/3 innings and allowed one run on seven hits in a 4-1 victory over the Phillies.

Reds: Raisel Iglesias will start for Cincinnati at 4:10 p.m. ET on Saturday, his fourth start in the big leagues. In Cleveland, on Sunday, while filling in for Johnny Cueto, Iglesias lasted only three innings because he had thrown 84 pitches. He allowed two runs on four hits, with three walks and six strikeouts.

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Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.