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WSH@CIN: Phillips makes a nice play in the fifth

CINCINNATI -- Reds pitcher Mat Latos felt like his bag of tricks was reduced to just one on Saturday night.

Latos had a fastball, but little else working. He didn't have good location either. Nor did he and the Reds have a win when all was said and done. Cincinnati dropped a 2-1 decision to the Nationals before a sold-out crowd of 42,294 fans at Great American Ball Park.

"I was in a rhythm early, and somehow I lost it," said Latos, who has a 4.54 ERA after seven starts. "I felt like it wasn't a bad outing considering I literally had one pitch I threw. I threw 82 fastballs in 109 pitches, so it wasn't too bad for only having one pitch."

But it certainly wasn't good enough, especially when he had seemingly turned a corner in his previous start last Sunday in Pittsburgh. There he had 11 strikeouts over six scoreless innings.

This time, Latos only allowed one run and three hits over five innings, but he tied a career high with five walks while striking out four. Bases-loaded jams in both the fourth and fifth innings spiked his pitch count.

"Those middle innings are when he's had the high-pitch-count innings most of the year," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He seems to lose the strike zone. He battled."

Cincinnati gave Latos a slim 1-0 lead in the first inning when Zack Cozart hit a leadoff single and scored from third base on a Brandon Phillips groundout. Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann was sharp, and yielded nothing more as he gave up five hits over seven innings. He retired 12 of his last 15 batters, as the Reds were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

"Once I started warming up before the game, I was pretty pinpoint with everything, took it out to the mound, and felt great all night," Zimmermann said.

In the early going, Latos used his fastball to blow away Washington. His two first-inning K's came on pitches that were 95 and 96 mph. He retired nine of the first 10 in his first three hitless innings.

In a 31-pitch fourth, Latos issued a two-out walk that loaded the bases, but struck out Rick Ankiel to escape without a run allowed.

In the Washington fifth, Wilson Ramos led off by driving a first pitch from Latos over the center-field fence, just out of Drew Stubbs' reach for the game-tying home run. The battle was only beginning, as Latos walked Zimmermann and gave up an Ian Desmond double. A fly to center field by Roger Bernadina, and one to right field by Ryan Zimmerman, failed to get the runner home from third base.

Following an Adam LaRoche intentional walk, Bryce Harper grounded a ball up the middle. Phillips made a spectacular stop and a behind-the-back flip to Cozart at second base for the inning-ending force play. That came on Latos' 34th pitch of the inning, his final one for the night.

"There's a lot of pressure with the trade and everything," said Latos, who was acquired in a five-player deal from San Diego in the winter. "I always want to go out to compete and perform for a new fan base. I thought I was on track and doing really well, like in Pittsburgh. I guess I just didn't get sick this morning."

In Latos' past two starts, including the victory at Pittsburgh, he felt under the weather.

Meanwhile, Washington has had the Reds under its thumb as the Nationals have won five of the six games in the season series -- three of them by one run.

"To tell you the truth, I would rather get blown out than lose by one run," Phillips said. "It [stinks] that we lost today. It just didn't go our way. Both pitchers pitched good, and we just didn't come through. I didn't come through either. We just didn't get it done."

The deciding run came in the top of the sixth against Reds reliever Jose Arredondo when Danny Espinosa hit a first pitch that easily cleared the right-field fence for a homer, his second in two nights, to put the Nationals ahead. It ensured that the Reds' six-series unbeaten streak would end, as the Nationals have taken back-to-back games with only Sunday's finale remaining

"You hate to lose a ballgame on two solo home runs," said Baker, whose club is back to .500 at 16-16. "It was bottom-of-the-order guys that beat us."

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