With bats back, Nats try for sweep of Reds

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

(AP) -- The Washington Nationals continue to feast on home cooking as they strengthen their grasp on the top wild-card spot in the National League.

Winners of six of eight overall and 26 of their last 39 home contests, the Nationals bid to continue that success on Wednesday when they vie for a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds.

Washington received a boost with the respective returns to the starting lineup of Juan Soto and Brian Dozier, who each belted a solo homer in the fourth inning of Tuesday's 3-1 victory.

Soto, who has four homers in his last five contests, returned following a one-game absence after sustaining an ankle injury in Sunday's 7-4 win over the New York Mets.

"He checked all the boxes," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of the 20-year-old Soto. "We got him on the field, he ran angles. He turned like he was running the bases. The biggest thing was the turns. He said he felt great.

"He was bugging me (Monday) to go in the game and I told him to just sit down and relax. But he was not happy that he had to sit and watch. He kept bugging to pinch-hit and I was like, 'Just sit down, OK? You'll be fine.'"

Dozier, who has been nursing an illness, appeared to be feeling just fine after he followed up his 17th homer by jumping on the back of a teammate for a piggyback ride in the dugout.

The 32-year-old's comments after the game painted a different picture, however.

"Stomach's still turning a little bit," Dozier said. "Body aches are gone and I'm keeping stuff inside my body longer. But headache's good. Chills are great."

Washington aims to ride the back of right-hander Stephen Strasburg (14-5, 3.72 ERA) in the series finale.

Strasburg has cooled a bit after winning seven straight starts, as the 31-year-old was gouged for nine runs in an 18-7 shellacking by Arizona on Aug. 3 before surrendering three runs in seven innings six days later in a no-decision against the New York Mets.

Strasburg, who is bidding for his career high-tying 15th win of a season, boasts a 4-1 mark with a 4.01 ERA in nine career starts versus Cincinnati.

Joey Votto, who is riding a five-game hitting streak, has been a thorn in the side of both Strasburg and the Nationals. The 35-year-old is 6-for-18 with a pair of homers in his career against the hurler and is 4-for-6 with three walks in the series.

Jesse Winker had two hits on Tuesday to improve to 3-for-8 in the series for the Reds, who have lost three in a row overall and 13 of their last 15 versus the Nationals.

"Really, anything goes in these kind of games," the 25-year-old Winker said, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. "You're close. You're in it. The ball just doesn't bounce your way. It's just part of it."

Cincinnati right-hander Trevor Bauer (10-8, 3.74) aims to ride the momentum of a sterling start in his home debut with his new club into Wednesday's outing.

Bauer allowed one run on three hits with 11 strikeouts over seven innings in a 5-2 win against the Chicago Cubs on Friday.

The 28-year-old yielded just four hits over 6 1/3 scoreless innings in his lone career start against Washington, a win in 2016 while he was with the Cleveland Indians.

--Field Level Media

Updated August 14, 2019