Reds starter Luis Castillo delivered another quality start — two runs and six hits over six innings — and his reward was a league-leading 16th defeat.
Of the Reds September swoon, Castillo said, “It has been a little difficult seeing how the results have been. You have to learn how to lose and you have to learn how to win. For us, I know we’re going to keep going and finish strong.”
The Reds have the losing part down pat, and finishing strong isn’t likely to be enough. It is obvious they’ll be in front of televisions watching October baseball.
On this night, they could not score against left-hander Patrick Corbin, owner of 15 defeats, owner of a 6.17 ERA and a guy who had given up 36 home runs during his 29 previous starts.
The Reds scraped together only four hits against Corbin in 6 2/3 innings and, of course, didn’t hit any home runs.
The Nationals did, though. Well, one man, 22-year-old super-stud Juan Soto hit two.
After the Nationals took a 1-0 lead in the third on a Josh Bell single, Soto led the sixth by driving Luis Castillo’s 0-and-2 pitch over the left field wall for a 2-0 lead.
“I always enjoy match-ups like those right there, especially because he is a great hitter, too,” said Castillo. “It was a two-seamer, a pitch that is supposed to start inside and land on the corner. But it didn’t land there.”
No, it landed in the seats.
It stayed 2-0 until the seventh. Reds relief pitcher Luis Cessa retired the first two, extending his streak of retired batters to 27 straight, a perfect game.
Something had to give, though, Soto came to the plate having reached bases eight straight times and 14 of his last 17.
Soto worked the count to 3-2 and once again went the opposite way, his 29th home run, extending his streak and ending Cessa’s.
For the Reds, it was more of the same, stranding runners in abundance.
The Reds put the leadoff hitter on base in four straight innings, from the third to the sixth. And they didn’t score.
They loaded the bases with one out in the third. And they didn’t score. Nick Castellanos struck out and Joey Votto struck out. Castellanos struck out three times.
“They’ve being it all year and both are having great seasons,” said Reds manager David Bell, talking about Castellanos and Votto. “You get into that situation, you want them at the plate and we’ll continue to want them at the plate. Even for a couple of the best hitters in the game it is not going to happen every time. That’s why it is such a tough game.”
Delino DeShields doubled to open the seventh and boldly took third on a fly ball. And he stayed there. Pinch-hitter Aristides Aquino struck out — he is 4 for his last 46 with 21 strikeouts. The inning ended on Jonathan India’s strikeout.
The Reds avoided a shutout in the ninth against Washington closer Ryan Finnegan with a pair of runs. Eugenio Suarez singled and scored on pinch-hitter Max Schrock’s triple and Schrock scored on pinch-hitter Tucker Barnhart’s ground ball.
Pinch-hitter TJ Friedl flied to center and India was hit by a pitch on the hand on a full count, the 22nd time India has been plunked. But it ended when Tyler Stephenson struck out.
The Reds were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.
And at this point, it was all inconsequential.
Even facing a struggling left-hander like Corbin, the Reds continued their late-season mesmerization against left-handers late in the season.
“I don’t think it is anything to make an off-season adjustment, or anything like that,” said Bell. “We didn’t face a bunch of left-handers early, and we’ve faced a bunch of them recently. We’re always taking a look at it and we’ll take a deep look at it, but right now it’s about taking the best approach we can each night.”
And about the recent string of losses of must-win games?
“It’s disappointing, it’s frustrating every time we lose,” said Bell. “We know that all these games are must wins. They will be the rest of the way. Each day we come out with the intent of winning a baseball game.”
Intent, though, does not win baseball games.
Nationals at Reds, 7:10 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410