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CIN@WSH: Bruce singles to open the scoring for Reds

WASHINGTON -- In a city that knows a little something about deficit spending, the Reds couldn't afford to give away extra outs or give up extra runs.

Tuesday night's 6-4 Reds loss to the Nationals ultimately came down to the events of the first inning. Cincinnati jumped out quickly with two runs before some shaky defense gave three runs right back behind Reds starter Mike Leake.

"Those three runs early in the game really put Leake behind the eight ball," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

The evening started optimistically for the Reds when they took a 2-0 first-inning lead against Nationals starter Chien-Ming Wang. Following a Drew Stubbs single, a stolen base and one-out walk by Joey Votto, Jay Bruce came through with a two-out roller into right field for an RBI single. Ramon Hernandez followed with an RBI single to right field that scored Votto.

Leake was dealt some misfortune in the bottom of the first and lost his brief lead. Leadoff batter Rick Ankiel popped a routine fly ball to left field. Playing back, Yonder Alonso ran in but could not get to the ball in time. Stubbs also made an effort running over from center field, but Ankiel had himself a bloop single.

Alonso got another shot at left field for the first time in over a week after some initial shakiness at the position. is on the disabled list so that left bench players Fred Lewis and Dave Sappelt as the other options in the outfield.

"A faster outfielder would have [caught the ball]," Baker lamented. "That's the one thing [Alonso] lacks is speed. It's something, most of the time, you're either born with it or you're not."

With one out, shortstop Edgar Renteria made a nice diving stop on Ryan Zimmerman's laser up the middle, but could not get a backhand toss to second base. Zimmerman was credited with a single.

Next was Michael Morse with a line drive to right field, where Bruce took an initial step in before heading back. The ball screamed over his head and to the wall for a two-run double and 3-2 Nationals lead.

"Jay broke in and by then it was too late," Baker said. "You hate to get two quick runs and they come back with three quick runs."

Leake had given up three runs only once over his previous five starts and came in with a 2.53 ERA in that stretch of outings.

"It happens sometimes," Leake said of the events behind him. "Some balls found some holes. I felt like I threw the ball pretty good."

Over his six innings, Leake allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits with one walk and five strikeouts. He also surrendered two home runs. It was the most earned runs he had given up since July 8, when he also allowed five earned runs.

With one out in the third inning, Morse's solo homer to right field off a 2-1 count against Leake made it a two-run game.

"The balls they hit out were off the plate," Leake said. "They were good pitches. I don't know if they were sitting on them or had a good plan. ... It wasn't like I was throwing balls down the middle and they were hitting them. Sometimes they got into 2-0 counts and they made me pay for getting them into hitters' counts."

In the Nationals' fourth, a two-out error by Votto on Ankiel's sharp grounder down the first-base line scored Wilson Ramos. Zimmerman's leadoff homer on a 0-1 count in the fifth made the Reds' hole a little deeper.

"He called that," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of Zimmerman. "He said he was going to hit a bomb. I guess the guy was pitching him fastballs in early in the count and he said, 'If he comes in there, I'm going to hit it out of the ballpark.' It didn't surprise any of us. I asked him if he got all of it and he said, 'No, it kind of jammed me.'"

During the sixth against Wang, Votto led off with a double to the right-field wall and he later scored from third base on a Bruce groundout. In the seventh, Renteria hit a one-out RBI double to the wall in center field but hobbled into second base on the play. He left the game and was later diagnosed with a strained left groin.

It was not a smooth start to a 10-day, nine-game road trip for the Reds. Since winning four in a row, they've now dropped two-straight games to fall to a 59-63 record. Their deficit in the standings is a robust 12 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers.

"When you're not scoring a lot of runs or have the capabilities of scoring a lot right now, it puts a lot of pressure on our pitchers," Baker said. "We really have to pitch and play defense. That's the No. 1 thing."

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