Cincinnati Reds vs. Washington Nationals Pick & Prediction MARCH 31st 2024

Following a dramatic come-from-behind win Saturday, the Washington Nationals look for a series win Sunday when they play the rubber match of their three-game series against the host Cincinnati Reds.

Keibert Ruiz is off to a hot start for Washington, going 4-for-7 in the first two games. That includes Saturday’s 3-for-4 performance with a game-tying homer in the eighth inning and three RBIs in the Nationals’ 7-6 come-from-behind win.

Joey Meneses is 4-for-8 through the first two games and former Reds left fielder Jesse Winker is 3-for-8 and threw out Santiago Espinal at the plate in Saturday’s game.

After giving up two runs in the eighth inning, the Nationals rallied for three in the ninth off Cincinnati closer Alexis Diaz, who retired just one batter before being lifted.

“First time out, he wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen him at times,” Reds manager David Bell said of his 2023 All-Star closer. “Then he got off to a tough start. Pitches were close. The walks are something (bad). We know that. The walks can lead to runs. He’s been outstanding for us in that situation for a long time.”

Diaz was tagged for two hits, two walks and three runs in the blown save.

The Nationals also took advantage of several misplays. Perhaps chief among them was when Reds center fielder Stuart Fairchild eased up on a Meneses fly ball, thinking it was the third out and allowing CJ Abrams to score in the fifth.

And shortstop Elly De La Cruz and Fairchild miscommunicated on a pop fly to center, allowing the first Washington run to score.

“Probably the best way to sum it up, there were several plays we typically make and will make moving forward,” Bell said.

The win was uplifting for Washington, which placed third baseman and former Cincinnati top prospect Nick Senzel on the 10-day injured list with fractured right thumb.

Senzel sustained the injury on his throwing hand when he took a ground ball bad hop during batting practice on Opening Day.

“I don’t have to have surgery, so that’s always a positive thing,” Senzel said before Saturday’s game. “It’s just based on getting the swelling out, letting the bone heal a little bit and then moving it around.”

Nick Martinez makes his first appearance in a Cincinnati uniform as a starter after leading San Diego in appearances in 2023. Appearing in 54 games as a reliever and making nine starts, the right-hander posted career-bests in games (63), strikeouts (106) and ERA (3.43).

Martinez was at his best as a starter, posting a 2.32 ERA and not allowing a run in any of his last six starts over 25 innings.

In his last nine appearances of 2023, including three starts, the 28-year-old right-hander posted a 0.45 ERA, the lowest of any pitcher in the majors in that span (minimum of 20 innings).

After signing a two-year, $26 million deal in December, Martinez entered the Cincinnati rotation to start the season after Nick Lodolo was designated to start the season on the injured list still recovering from a lower left leg injury that limited his 2023 season to just seven starts.

The Nationals counter with right-hander Jake Irvin, making his third career start against the Reds.

In two previous starts last season, Irvin is 0-1 with a 5.23 ERA, allowing six runs on 11 hits — including three home runs — and six runs over 10 1/3 innings.

–Field Level Media

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