WASHINGTON (AP) Elly De La Cruz hit a massive solo homer and two doubles after a mix-up with a covering on the knob of his bat, and the surging Cincinnati Reds beat the Washington Nationals 9-2 on Wednesday night.
Joey Votto also homered and finished with three hits as Cincinnati won for the seventh time in eight games. Will Benson had two hits and two RBIs for the NL Central leaders, and Graham Ashcraft (4-6) pitched six effective innings in his first win since May 28.
Washington collected 10 hits, but it went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position in its fourth loss in five games. Nationals right-hander Josiah Gray (6-7) allowed three earned runs and eight hits in five innings.
De La Cruz, one of the majors' top rookies and a key engine behind Cincinnati's rise to the top of its division, had an empty sensor cover on the knob of his bat. But it was removed after Nationals manager Dave Martinez questioned its use before the infielder batted in the second.
Umpires reviewed the legality of the knob cover with the league office and informed De La Cruz he was allowed to put it back on his bat for his second at-bat in the third.
“It’s something that we use in spring training," De La Cruz said through a translator. "It’s just a sensor that we use but there it’s just the plastic that covers the bat. There’s nothing else besides that. I started using it back in 2021. It just felt more comfortable using that and from there on out I asked for more of those plastic shells.”
After the game, crew chief Adrian Johnson went over the timeline of events after Martinez questioned the use of the knob sensor cover.
“Davey brought up the issue with the attachment on the bat," Johnson told a pool reporter. "It’s something we hadn’t dealt with before. So, we used the tool we have, the rules check, to contact replay, which is in the league office, asking about the attachment. It took quite a while for them to get back to us.
"We had to continue to play, to keep the game going. They finally got back to us before his next at-bat and said that the attachment was approved. So, he played the rest of the game with the attachment on the bat.”
After flying out to left in the third, De La Cruz opened the fifth with a 455-foot drive to right-center. He then pointed at the end of his bat before rounding the bases.
“Just to tell everybody that the knob is not the reason why I am doing a good job," De La Cruz said of the meaning behind the gesture. "It’s because of all the work I’m putting out there.”
Martinez had his own thoughts on De La Cruz's celebration.
“I am not trying to penalize this kid. I’m not. I love the way he plays the game,” Martinez said. "I didn’t like his antics after he hit the home run. We can do without that. He’s only got two weeks in the big leagues, but he’s going to be a good player.”
The Reds have homered in 19 consecutive games for their second-longest streak in franchise history. Cincinnati’s longest homer streak was 21 games in 1956.
De La Cruz also doubled, stole third and scored on Jake Fraley's single in the eighth. Fraley scored on Benson's groundout to give the Reds a 9-2 lead.
De La Cruz "took great swings all night, even some foul balls that he fouled straight back,” manager David Bell said.
The last-place Nationals dropped to 13-30 at home this year.
Ashcraft allowed one run and seven hits. The right-hander has put together a pair of solid starts following a calf contusion that put him on the 15-day injured list.
The Reds seek a four-game series sweep when Brandon Williamson (1-2, 5.56 ERA) faces Washington's MacKenzie Gore (4-7, 4.48 ERA) in a matchup of left-handers. Gore is 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in two career starts against the Reds.
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