Benson, Encarnacion-Strand hit back-to-back 9th-inning homers, lift Reds over Nationals 6-5

by 24USATVApril 1, 2024, 1 a.m. 21
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CINCINNATI (AP) — Will Benson and Christian Encarnacion-Strand hit back-to-back home runs with two outs in the ninth inning, lifting the Cincinnati Reds to a series-clinching 6-5 win over the Washington Nationals on Sunday.

Cincinnati trailed 5-3 when Jonathan India hit a two-out double off Kyle Finnegan (0-1). to straightaway center to tie it up. Encarnacion-Strand swung over a low splitter, then drove an up splitter 387 feet into the left-field seats for his first hit in 13 at-bats this season as the Reds streamed out of their dugout to celebrate.

“I had an idea of what I wanted to do all three games. I just wasn’t executing,” Encarnacion-Strand said. “When I think to just hit the ball hard, it shrinks everything for me.”

With the Reds down to their final out, India dueled with Finnegan, fouling off six pitches before lining a 96.6 mph fastball down the left-field line.

“I watched Jonathan’s at-bat,” Benson said. “It gave me a chance to get my timing down. I looked for a pitch over the plate and I got it.”

Encarnacion-Strand struck out twice and hit into two double plays before his walk-off hit.

“He’s always capable of coming up with the big hit, the big at-bat,” Reds manager David Bell said. “When you’re able to do it with your back against the wall like that and continue to grind out at-bats, it sure is a lot of fun to be a part of.”

Lucas Sims (1-0) retired three straight batters in the ninth.

Nick Martinez, in his Reds debut, allowed three runs and six hits in five innings.

Jake Fraley had three hits for the Reds, who won on opening day and lost Saturday.

Trey Lipscomb in the seventh inning for the Nationals. CJ Abrams hit a solo homer in the third inning and added an eighth-inning sacrifice fly, and Lane Thomas had a two-run single in the fifth.

Nationals starter Jake Irvin allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings.

“That’s tough. Three-two (count), double. Homer. Homer. that’s how it ended,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “But the last two games I’m pleased at how we played the game. We played hard. we played tough. It’s just unfortunate. When you get a chance to go into the ninth inning with your closer, usually good things happen.”

LHP Nick Lodolo (left tibia) gave up a run and two hits in five innings of a rehab start at Triple-A Louisville. He struck out eight and walked three, throwing 49 of 77 pitches for strikes.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore gets the start against RHP Marco Gonzales as Washington opens a home series against the Pirates.

Reds: LHP Andrew Abbott gets the start for Cincinnati against Phillies LHP Cristopher Sánchez in the opener of a three-game set in Philadelphia.

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