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Romano solid, but Reds can't finish comeback

Righty overcomes bumpy 1st inning to record quality start
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- A three-pitch pitcher, Sal Romano needed 34 pitches to get through the first inning Sunday vs. the Nationals. He realized quickly two of his pitches were not with him on the mound.

"I basically had only one pitch today and that was my sinker. I wasn't really able to throw my curveball or changeup for a strike," Romano said.

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CINCINNATI -- A three-pitch pitcher, Sal Romano needed 34 pitches to get through the first inning Sunday vs. the Nationals. He realized quickly two of his pitches were not with him on the mound.

"I basically had only one pitch today and that was my sinker. I wasn't really able to throw my curveball or changeup for a strike," Romano said.

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Romano was able to grind through six innings, but both he and the Reds came up short in a 6-5 loss to Washington that completed the three-game series sweep. It marked the club's first 0-3 start to a season since the inaugural season of Great American Ball Park in 2003.

In a series in which Cincinnati faced three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, batters struck out 33 times. The Nationals also scored in the first inning of all three games and never relinquished a lead all weekend.

"It's frustrating to lose, because we want to make some big changes this year," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "So, if we're 0-3 and we end up winning 90 games, nobody really gives a darn that you start out 0-3."

Following Anthony Rendon's two-run home run in the first inning, Romano threw a combined 31 pitches over his next three innings and kept Washington off the scoreboard until the sixth, when Bryce Harper led off with a homer to right field.

Overall, Romano allowed three earned runs and four hits with four walks (one intentional) and two strikeouts.

"Those last five innings, I was really able to work on my sinker, mixing speeds with it and trying not to just throw it as hard as I can," Romano said. "I was just trying to throw it over the plate and let them beat it into the ground."

A two-out double by Adam Duvall in the sixth inning that scored Eugenio Suarez was the only blemish in Gonzalez's six-plus-inning day.

Video: WSH@CIN: Duvall's RBI double trims the Reds' deficit

But as part of his 8-for-13 series, Ohio native Adam Eaton answered with a two-run homer to right field off Yovani Gallardo, who was making his Reds debut. Against Raisel Iglesias in the ninth, Harper hit his second solo homer of the day. Those long balls provided some breathing room, which would be needed against Cincinnati in the final two innings.

"They're doing exactly what we want to do, which is get a lead and add runs," Price said. "It makes every bit of difference in a one-run game. We just weren't able to stop them late in the game, the tack-on [runs]."

In the ninth against Sean Doolittle, role player Phil Gosselin slugged a 0-2 pitch for a two-out, two-run homer to right-center field that made it a one-run game. But Doolittle was able to get Billy Hamilton to strike out looking to end the game.

Video: WSH@CIN: Gosselin drills a late two-run homer

"It's nice to come through, for sure. It was a tough loss," Gosselin said. "We did a good job of hanging in there. Gio threw a pretty good game, and we were still in the mix there in the end but came up a little short."

Video: WSH@CIN: Price on Romano's outing, offense improving

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Romano taken deep quickly: Eaton's electric start of the season continued when his first-inning leadoff single marked his sixth hit in consecutive at-bats. It set up the next batter, Rendon, on a 1-2 count, to take a 97-mph fastball out to left field for a two-run homer -- his first of 2018 -- and a quick 2-0 Nationals lead.

Video: WSH@CIN: Rendon belts a two-run homer to left

"I think I threw three or four in a row in the perfect spot I wanted, and he wasn't able to do anything with it except foul it off," Romano said. "I just wanted to stay in there. I didn't want to speed up his bat with a curveball or changeup or anything. I tried to stay in and missed my location. He did what he should do with it and hit it out. I just need to be a little better than that."

Rally squashed: Lefty reliever 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.

Video: WSH@CIN: Hamilton doubles to left, plates a run

With the bases loaded and no outs, right-hander Ryan Madson was summoned to face Duvall, who represented the go-ahead run. 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.

"We're getting some guys on base. Eventually that's going to change as far as driving those guys in and taking advantage of the RBI situations," Price said.

QUOTABLE
"We just went Scherzer, Strasburg and Gonzalez. I don't think we're going to see any better than those three guys the rest of the year. We'll be all right. It's still early." -- Gosselin, on the Reds' 0-3 start to 2018

WHAT'S NEXT
The Reds continue their homestand with a two-game series vs. the Cubs, beginning at 4:10 p.m. ET on 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.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Sal Romano