WASHINGTON (AP) Joey Votto hit a two-run home run to end an 0-for-21 slump, Ian Gibaut pitched out of a jam in the sixth inning and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Washington Nationals 3-2 Monday night in the opener of a four-game series.
Votto homered in the fourth off Jake Irvin, depositing the ball just inside the visiting bullpen in left-center field and driving in Elly De La Cruz. It's his fourth home run in 12 games this season since returning in June.
“He’s just great,” starter Luke Weaver said. “When he’s in the box, you just feel like something could happen at any moment, and it did tonight.”
The 2010 NL MVP missed the previous 10 months recovering from surgery to repair his left biceps and rotator cuff. The 39-year-old entered the game hitting .143.
“I have felt good,” Votto said. “It’s been frustrating. Any time you go through a cold spell, especially early, it can be a bit irritating because you want to be chill at the plate and you want to feel good about yourself.”
Weaver (2-2) picked up the win by allowing two earned runs on six hits in five-plus innings. He was spared a 10th consecutive no-decision - or worse - when Gibaut got through the sixth, allowing just one hit, striking out Corey Dickerson and inducing a flyout from Derek Hill.
“A win’s a win,” Weaver said. "Just happy to help contribute on the day I’m pitching. It seems that we don’t lose when I’m pitching, regardless of my results, but it’s a great place to be."
Catcher Tyler Stephenson drove in the Reds' other run with an RBI single in the second. Fresh off being named an All-Star for the first time, closer Alexis Díaz picked up his 24th save.
Cincinnati is getting hot again. The Reds have won five of six since a three-game losing streak to keep pace with Milwaukee atop the NL Central, and Votto was happy to contribute.
“When the momentum of the team is moving in a certain direction, you want to continue to be the wind behind the sails,” he said. “You want to continue to push the team in that direction.”
Last-place Washington fell to 13-28 at home, this one in front of 36,290, the biggest crowd at Nationals Park this season. Manager Dave Martinez pointed to his team going 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position as the difference.
“That hurt us, from the first inning on,” he said.
Jeimer Candelario hit his 12th home run of the season, a solo shot in the fourth inning. Irvin (1-4) struck out three and allowed six hits.
“A couple pitches that I’d want back, but just another time out trying to earn the trust and respect of my teammates,” Irvin said. “I think it went pretty well.”
The Nationals put right-handed reliever Thaddeus Ward on the 15-day injured list, retroactive to Sunday, with right shoulder inflammation. Martinez said Ward may have been taxed by his 30 1/3 innings of work in 22 appearances.
RHP Brett Kennedy could start his first major league game since 2018 for the Reds, facing the Nationals and LHP Patrick Corbin (5-9, 4.82).
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