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Nationals' bats struggle again, Span's leadoff homer is only run in 2-1 loss to Reds

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WASHINGTON - Danny Espinosa raised his right hand and pointed at home plate umpire Alan Porter, protesting the called third strike that had just ended the game.

It was another frustrating day for a Washington Nationals offence that has been struggling for consistency without three key members of the lineup.

The Nationals lost 2-1 to the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday, just one day after battering ace Johnny Cueto for eight runs. Washington lost two of three in the series.

"Right now we're banged up, man," said Denard Span, who accounted for Washington only run when he homered off Alfredo Simon to lead off the first. "It's tough because I still feel like we're playing good baseball, even with our circumstances right now. Even the two games we lost this series, they were tough loses. We were in both of those games; we had opportunities to win both of those games."

Simon (6-2) settled down after a rough start and came back after a 61-minute rain delay, allowing one run over seven innings.

The Nationals — playing without Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche — finished a six-game homestand with a 3-3 mark.

Against Cincinnati, the Nationals erupted for nine runs in the middle game, but they managed just three over 15 innings off Mike Leake and a slew of relievers on Monday. They didn't score again Wednesday after Span's homer.

"No, it's not frustrating," manager Matt Williams said. "It's a product of who we're facing, too. The guy's a quality pitcher.

"Leake's a quality pitcher, too, and we beat a good one last night. Would you love to score nine every day? Sure. If you could do that you'd probably win a championship, but that's not the nature of the game."

Simon worked out of a jam in the second, then allowed only three more baserunners. He threw two innings after the storm that interrupted the game for just over an hour.

Jonathan Broxton handled the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman pitched a one-two-three ninth for his third save, hitting 103 mph on the stadium's radar gun while striking out Espinosa.

Brandon Phillips and Brayan Pena had RBI singles in the fourth against Tanner Roark (3-2), who allowed six hits and two runs — one unearned — over six innings for the Nationals, while lowering his ERA to 3.42.

"We lost in the 15th inning the other day, so it's not like we're getting blown out or anything like that," Roark said. "We lost today by one run. We're not worried."

The Reds were hitless through three before getting to Roark in the fourth. Zack Cozart led off with a double, Phillips singled him home, and third baseman Kevin Frandsen's error on Devin Mesoraco's grounder helped set up the single by Pena that scored Phillips.

If nothing else, the game was notable because it contained overlapping replay and rain delays. Everyone was awaiting the ruling on a challenge by Reds manager Bryan Price on Todd Frazier's steal attempt in the top of the sixth when the grounds crew came out with the tarp. The four-minute replay delay yielded no change: Frazier was out, as signalled by the four umpires huddled near the third base line in a downpour after players had scampered toward the dugouts.

NOTES: RHP Blake Treinen will be called up to start in place of Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals on Thursday when they begin a road series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. . Williams said reliever RHP Ryan Mattheus will be sent down to make room for Treinen.

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