WASHINGTON — Josh Smith’s first professional win was nearly six years ago with the Rookie level Pioneer League Billings Mustangs in a 1-0 victory over the Helena Brewers. Behind the plate for that win was Tucker Barnhart.
Saturday night, Barnhart was behind the plate for the Reds as Smith picked up his first career big-league victory in the Reds’ 9-4 victory over the Nationals in 10 innings.
Barnhart also came through with the bat, driving in the go-ahead run in the five-run top of the 10th to help give the 28-year-old Smith the W.
“It’s funny and really fitting that Tucker gets that hit in the 10th,” said Smith, a 21st-round pick in 2010. “We’ve been together since 2010, since I got drafted and rookie ball. It’s only fitting that he got that hit.”
Barnhart was drafted by the Reds in the 10th round of the 2009 draft, and has been a teammate of Smith’s every step of the way up the Reds’ minor-league ladder, from Billings, Mont., to Dayton, Ohio, to Bakersfield, Calif., to Pensacola, Fla., to Louisville, Ky., and ultimately with the Reds.
“Josh and I have played together for a long time, so being able to aid in the process of him getting his first big-league win – it’s definitely really special,” Barnhart said. “I got the bat on the ball to get a hit. He pitched his butt off. That was just a little play in the grand scheme of things.”
Barnhart may be underselling his part in the Reds’ victory that snapped a five-game losing streak. Not only did he get that hit, but he also had two more, scoring a run and picking up his first big-league stolen base. He reached base a total of four times and, as always, was a big part of the Reds’ pitching game.
With an overtaxed bullpen, starter Dan Straily pitched into the eighth inning for just the second time in his big-league career, allowing just two hits in seven-plus innings.
“Tucker had a great gameplan for me; we’re on the same page,” Straily said afterward. “There was one inning where I threw one fastball and I was literally holding every pitch that was called, so it just shows how he and I are on the same page with everything.”
Unfortunately the two hits Straily gave up — a triple in the third to Ben Revere and a home run to Danny Espinosa in the eighth — accounted for three runs.
The Reds, who accumulated 14 hits on the night and eight in the first three innings, scored four in the first two innings, but couldn’t scrape together another run until the five-run 10th.
The Reds were stymied in part by Revere in center field, who not only tripled in Stephen Drew in the third for the Nationals’ first hit, but also ended the fifth and sixth innings with great defensive plays, leaving Reds runners in scoring position. He came in to make a diving catch in the fifth tor rob Billy Hamilton of an RBI and then took two away from Jay Bruce when he made a leaping catch at the wall in center to end the sixth.
Straily cruised through seven innings, needing just 88 pitches through those innings and had the bottom three in the Nationals’ order coming up in the eighth. He walked Drew on five pitches and then gave up the homer to Espinosa.
Reds manager Bryan Price then took him out, bringing in Blake Wood, who had pitched in two of the three games against the Cubs and then again in Thursday’s series opener against the Nationals.
Wood walked pinch-hitter Anthony Rendon on four pitches and, after a sacrifice bunt, walked Jayson Werth to bring up Bryce Harper, who lined the first pitch he saw to left field to tie the game at 4, ending Straily’s chance at a win.
Wood then struck out Daniel Murphy, but walked Wilson Ramos to load the bases, bringing up Smith.
Smith was called up for the first time last season as the Reds used starter after starter, appearing in nine games and starting seven, putting up an 0-4 record and a 7.44 ERA. This season, he wasn’t invited to big-league spring training, but he continued to pitch well at Triple-A Louisville this season, before earning a call-up in mid-May. In his first 11 games out of the bullpen for the Reds this year, he recorded a 2.08 ERA in 17 1/3 innings, before stumbling Thursday when he gave up five runs in 1 2/3 innings in the team’s blowout loss to the Nationals. If there were any lingering demons from that outing, Smith exorcised them on Saturday. He retired all four batters he faced, including a strikeout of Espinosa, who hit a three-run homer off of him on Thursday, in the ninth inning.
“He’s gotten a second chance and is taking advantage of it as a relief pitcher,” Price said. “What he’s doing is creating a situation where he’s a guy that can be a trusted piece in a late-game situation. So he’s done a lot of good things for himself.”
And the Reds did a lot good for him in the 10th, capitalizing on two Nationals errors and a wild pitch to help lead them to five runs.
Eugenio Suarez and Brandon Phillips led off the inning with back-to-back singles before Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman misplayed a Hamilton sacrifice attempt, loading the bases. That’s when Barnhart, who is hitting .406 (13 for 32) over his last 10 games, singled in a run, with another scoring on Harper’s error in right. Hamilton then scored on a wild pitch to make it 7-4, and Jose Peraza and Jay Bruce drove in two more runs to give the Reds a five-run cushion.
Right-hander Jumbo Diaz worked around a Cozart error for a scoreless bottom of the 10th, breaking the Reds’ five-game losing streak.
“Obviously, selfishly you always want the W. But the fact the Reds won tonight, that’s more important than anything,” Straily said. “That’s what we set out for every single day. You’re going to go out there and win ballgames like in Colorado where I gave up five runs in six innings and win the ballgame. You’re going to lose games where you go seven-plus and give up one run. At the end of the day, as long as the team wins, it makes me feel like I did my job tonight, given the fact the team won.”
• Joey Votto, who was scratched from the lineup before the game with a sore right shoulder, is day-to-day, Price said.
“We thought maybe today and we did everything we could and he did everything he could,” Price said. “It just wasn’t good. We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow and make that decision in the morning.”
Votto hurt his shoulder sliding head-first into second base on a double in the 13th inning of Friday’s 14-inning loss to the Nationals.
• After Saturday’s game, the Nationals announced that right-hander Stephen Strasburg would start Sunday’s game against the Reds.