WASHINGTON — Johnny Cueto pitched a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts, Joey Votto homered and drove in three runs and the Cincinnati Reds beat Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals 5-0 Tuesday night.
The potential pitching duel between Cueto and Scherzer never materialized. Cueto kept up his end — retiring the final 15 batters in his first complete game of the year — but Scherzer struggled from the outset.
One day after being named to the NL All-Star team, Scherzer (9-7) gave up five runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings, his shortest outing in more than a year. The five runs were more than the right-hander allowed in his previous four games combined, a stretch that included a no-hitter and a one-hitter.
Votto was the main culprit. He doubled in a run in the first inning, hit a solo homer in the third and added an RBI single in the fifth.
Cueto (6-5) threw 122 pitches in his 11th career complete game. It was the 30th start in the last two seasons in which the right-hander allowed no more than two runs over at least seven innings.
Cueto is among the candidates vying to earn a spot on the All-Star roster via a final vote from the fans, and this performance certainly didn’t hurt his bid.
Jay Bruce had two hits and an RBI for the Reds, who will try for a 6-0 sweep of the season series Wednesday night.
Scherzer gave up two runs before getting two outs. After Brandon Phillips opened the game with a single, Votto hit an RBI double and scored on a triple by Bruce.
Votto made it 3-0 in the third with his 15th home run, a drive that soared over the right-field wall into the Washington bullpen.
Cincinnati used an RBI single by Votto and a sacrifice fly by Todd Frazier to chase Scherzer in the fifth. He entered the game with a 1.82 ERA and left at 2.12.
Reds: LHP Tony Cingrani (strained left shoulder) was scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Louisville on Tuesday night. … RHP Anthony DeSclafani is expected to make his next start despite experiencing tightness in his hip region during Monday’s start.
Nationals: CF Denard Span (back spasms) and 2B Yunel Escobar (hamstring strain) were both held out of the game. Span received an MRI and will be seeing a specialist for the recurring injury. “It’s been very frustrating, to say the least,” Span said.
Reds: Rookie right-hander Michael Lorenzen (3-3, 3.58) makes his 12th big league start in the series finale Wednesday night. He beat the Nationals 8-2 on May 31.
Nationals: Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 4.16) has allowed one earned run in his last two starts for a 0.64 ERA.