CINCINNATI -- Right-hander Dan Haren was often hit hard during Spring Training and it was believed that the exhibition season was too long and he would be all right once the regular season started.
Perhaps not. Haren pitched his first regular season game Friday night and was hit hard as the Reds shut out the Nationals, 15-0, at Great American Ball Park. It was Washington's first loss of the season and the most lopsided loss in Nationals history.
The Reds showed they were not the weak-hitting Marlins, who the Nationals swept to start the season. The Reds acted like the Big Red Machine of the 1970s, collecting 19 hits in the game.
Haren lasted four innings and allowed six runs on nine hits. Four of those nine hits came on home runs. The Reds were able to get to Haren in the second inning, when Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart hit back-to-back home runs with one out.
The Cozart home run was a questionable one because it looked like a fan touched the ball before clearing the fence. However, manager Davey Johnson didn't ask the umpires to review the home run. It didn't help that Bryce Harper and Denard Span didn't argue the call. After the inning ended, Johnson was seen talking to center fielder Denard Span about the home run.
According to Span, he and Bryce Harper thought the ball cleared the fence.
"From what we saw, we thought it was a home run," Span said. "I'm not sure what it said on the replay."
The following inning, the Reds added to their lead when Cozart hit a three-run home run that barely cleared the right-field wall to make it a 5-0 game.
In the fourth inning, Shin-Soo Choo hit what looked like a questionable home run over the right-center-field wall. This time, Johnson asked for a replay, but 3 minutes and 39 seconds later, the play stood.
After the game, manager Davey Johnson didn't seem to be worried about Haren, pointing out that he had a long layoff before he pitched his first regular season game. The last time he pitched prior to Friday was March 26th against the Marlins.
"He had a long layoff. That causes you not to be sharp," Johnson said. "It's just one game. He is a quality pitcher. He knows how to pitch. When you think of Spring Training, you are getting your arm in shape. He is working on a few things. Just move on."
Haren didn't have any excuses for his outing. After the game, he was talking to catcher Kurt Suzuki about the start and he came to the conclusion that he threw too many two-seam fastballs, which ran back over the plate. Haren now feels he should have thrown a few more four-seam fastballs. They have a tendency to move to the outer part of the plate.
"No excuses. I felt good," Haren said. "The first inning I felt great. Maybe I wasn't as sharp as I could be. The layoff definitely didn't hurt. When a game like this happens, I want to get back out there again."
Zach Duke replaced Haren and didn't fare any better. He allowed an unearned run in the fifth inning. After Frazier singled, he then stole second and moved to third on a throwing error by Suzuki. Frazier then scored on a sacrifice fly by Cozart, his fifth RBI of the game.
The seventh inning proved to be a disaster for Duke and Henry Rodriguez, who allowed a combined seven runs. Xavier Paul highlighted the scoring with a grand slam to make it 14-0.
"They were falling behind in the count," Suzuki said about Duke and Rodriguez. "They put them in good hitters counts. There is only so much you can do. You have to work on getting ahead and go right at them."
Cincinnati added another run in the bottom of the eighth inning against right-hander Ryan Mattheus. Frazier drove in his fourth run of the game with a single to left field.
"It was exciting, team-wise," Frazier said. "Cozart was doing his thing and everybody was contributing. It was pretty cool. You wish you could have those games every day. We can live in this moment for a little longer and then we've got another game tomorrow."
The Nationals couldn't touch Reds starter Homer Bailey, who lasted six innings and allowed just two hits. The only threat against Bailey occurred in the fifth inning. The Nationals had runners on first and second with two outs, but Jayson Werth flew out to center field to end the inning.
"Bailey was pretty sharp. Our guys were having problems picking up his fastball. We had a couple of soft tossers [from the Marlins pitching against us] and here is a guy [like Bailey, who] is throwing pretty good. But tomorrow is another day."
For Suzuki, it was hard not to think about the lopsided game on Friday.
"I take a lot of pride in my work, being behind the dish, calling pitches," Suzuki said. "When stuff like this happens, it seems like you are handcuffed out there. It's like nothing can go right."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.