Martin’s walks and sloppy play doom Nats

CINCINNATI, OH. --- Right fielder Willie Harris was a picture of frustration in the clubhouse after the Reds slammed the door on the Nationals 7-2 in the series opener at Great American Ball Park.

Harris had one arm leaning against his locker as he recounted the second inning where the Reds scored four times.

It held up because Johnny Cueto was on target, allowing only four hits in six innings.

The critical rally for the Reds came with no score in the bottom of the second inning.

Jonny Gomes led off with a single, then Jay Bruce and Miguel Cairo were walked to load the bases. Drew Stubbs then yanked a base hit to right field that was initially bobbled by Harris, who then threw to the infield cut off man.

Second baseman Cristian Guzman was drifting towards first base, but the throw came in more towards second and got by Guzman to allow another run to score. They called it a two-run double, but it appeared to be an error on the throw.

Harris took the blame, saying “it was just a bad throw in there. I was expecting the cut off man to be in a certain spot. When I threw it in, it was just a bad throw. My fault.”

So why has the defense been mediocre for most of the season?

Willie said he did not think defense was the problem Monday, instead he said Reds starter Johnny Cueto was the problem.

“He kept us off balance. After the rain delay, he was a different guy. I think he pitched well.”

But if Harris wasn’t going to directly answer a question about the porous defense, he did touch on how the possibility of changes can be a distraction.

“There are a lot of rumors swirling around here about guys getting traded. We have to worry about our opponent that night. We can’t worry about trade rumors. If you get traded, you go wherever you go and you turn the page. You go and try to help that team win.”

When asked if he thought rumors have played a part in the Nats sloppy play, Harris said “I don’t know. It weighs differently on different guys. We have to do what we have to do as far as our team goes and not really worry about anything else.”

Is this the first hint at the possibility that this team will look measurably different on August 1 then it does today? If problems on defense and a sudden lack of offensive punch continues, the notion certainly cannot be ignored.

J.D. Martin said the pair of walks in the second inning made it very difficult for him to get back on track.

“I just started missing pitches. I was leaving balls up and started walking guys. It comes down to throwing strikes and I wasn’t throwing strikes today.

“You walk too many guys in an inning, it is hard to get out of it, especially when you are not locating. It pretty much comes down to not throwing strikes.”

After the game, Justin Maxwell was again sent back to Syracuse so that Luis Atilano could be activated for Tuesday’s game against Mike Leake.

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