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Rookie Ashcraft tosses another gem, Reds beat Nationals 8-1

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Graham Ashcraft throws during the third inning of the team's baseball game against the Washington Nationals on Thursday, June 2, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Reds rookie starter Graham Ashcraft delivered another gem, and he’s only been in the majors less than two weeks.

The 24-year-old right-hander had his cutter and sinker working in the upper 90s again, inducing ground balls and holding the Washington Nationals to one run and four hits over seven innings in an 8-1 win on Thursday night.

Joey Votto and Kyle Farmer supported him with three-run homers as the Reds cruised.

Ashcraft (2-0) had chalked up his first major league win last Friday, throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings in an impressive performance against the San Francisco Giants.

“I think it’s pretty nice when you can go out there and just get the soft contact, and it’s right at guys — there’s not many balls that they’re having to dive for in the hole and make great plays on,” Ashcraft said.

“The biggest focus has been on filling up the zone,” he added. “Don’t try to throw around guys, just attack them and make them hit my best stuff, and I feel like I’m going to beat them every time.”

Ashcraft struck out five, finishing each one off with his slider. He shut out Washington until Josh Bell hit a one-out solo homer in the seventh inning, but the rookie came back and got the final two outs of the inning.

“Just a great start,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Very efficient. Got through seven innings and still under 95 pitches. It doesn’t get much better than what he did tonight.”

Art Warren and Joel Kuhnel each pitched a scoreless inning to finish it for the Reds.

Joan Adon (1-9) allowed three runs and six hits through 5 1/3 innings for the Nationals.

After Brandon Drury reached on an infield single and Tommy Pham walked in the Reds’ first, Votto hit a 2-2 Adon fastball into the right-field seats, his first homer since May 25 and just his third all season.

“He’s facing a future Hall of Famer there,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Adon. “He just left the ball out over the plate a little bit. He had a growth moment.”

Matt Reynolds led off off the Reds’ seventh with his first homer since May 17, 2017. And with two aboard in eighth, Farmer blasted one off the top of the center field wall, his fifth.

The Nationals threatened in the fifth inning, putting runners on second and third with two outs, but Ashcraft escaped by striking out Victor Robles.

PHAM RETURNS

Pham was back in the lineup after serving a three-game suspension and then being scratched for the two-game series in Boston. Pham served the suspension for slapping San Francisco Giants outfielder Joc Pederson over a disagreement involving a fantasy football leagu. He didn’t play in Boston, with the team reporting he had discomfort in his left calf.

Pham drove in a run with a sacrifice fly on Thursday and made a great stabbing catch of a fly ball that center fielder Nick Senzel had lost in the lights.

CALLED SHOT

Votto is known for telling his teammates he’s going to hit a home run and then doing it. That was the case with his first-inning blast.

“I just thought I was going to homer,” he said. “It’s hard to explain. You just feel it — and then you do it.”

TRAINERS ROOM

Nationals: Right-hander Stephen Strasburg will make a third rehab start on Friday night for Triple-A Rochester. He’s making his way back after neurogenic thoracic outlet surgery sidelined for most of 2021 and the first two months of this season.

Reds: OF Tyler Naquin, who exited Wednesday’s game against the Red Sox with a left quad strain, could miss as much as a month, manager David Bell said. He’s already had two stints on the 10-day injured list this season.

UP NEXT

Left-hander Mike Minor makes his first start for the Reds on Friday night after being sidelined all season with a left shoulder strain. He was acquired from the Royals in March in exchange for left-handed reliever Amir Garrett. Right-hander Josiah Gray (5-4, 5.08) is the scheduled starter for the Nationals. Gray allowed a run and three hits in Sunday’s 6-5 win over Colorado.