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Strasburg leaves after 16 pitches, Reds beat Nationals 5-2

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Strasburg leaves after 16 pitches, Reds beat Nationals 5-2

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Washington's Stephen Strasburg left after only 16 pitches because of a stiff neck, and Zack Cozart had three hits as the Cincinnati Reds rallied against the Nationals' bullpen for a 5-2 victory on Friday night.

The Reds took advantage of Strasburg's quick exit to win for only the second time in 12 games.

Strasburg gave up a solo homer in the first inning by Joey Votto, his first since April 28. Strasburg said the left side of his neck tightened in the dugout after the inning.

He walked Brayan Pena on his 16th pitch to open the second inning and shrugged his shoulders. After a discussion with a trainer, he left the game.

Strasburg had a rough May, failing to last four innings in four of his five starts.

Taylor Jordan (0-1) took over and gave up three runs in the sixth. Brandon Phillips -- limited to pinch hitting because of a sore toe -- tied the game with a sacrifice fly. Billy Hamilton singled for a 3-2 lead, stole second, and came home on Cozart's third single of the game.

Anthony DeSclafani (3-4) went six innings for his first win since April 20.

Tony Cingrani walked the bases loaded with two outs in the eighth, but J.J. Hoover fanned Ian Desmond to end the threat. Aroldis Chapman gave up a single to Bryce Harper in the ninth while getting his eighth save in as many chances.

Todd Frazier added a solo homer, his 15th, as the Reds pulled away. Thirty of his 44 homers in the last two seasons have come at Great American Ball Park.

The Nationals played their first game since a CT scan found that outfielder Jayson Werth broke his wrist in two places when he was hit by a pitch on May 16. He's sidelined indefinitely.

DeSclafani, one of three rookies in the Reds' rotation, was 0-4 in his last six starts. He gave up a pair of runs and eight hits. Desmond singled in the first inning, extending his hitting streak to 13 games.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: Right-hander Doug Fister, who went on the disabled list on May 15 with tightness in his forearm, threw without problem on Friday. He hasn't yet thrown a bullpen session.

Reds: Johnny Cueto, sidelined by inflammation in his pitching elbow, won't start again until at least next week.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Left-hander Gio Gonzalez is 2-1 with a 1.06 ERA in five career starts against the Reds.

Reds: Raisel Iglesias makes his fourth start overall and his second filling in for Cueto. He lasted only three innings in a 5-2 loss in Cleveland on Sunday.

[MORE: Rendon resumes rehab, plays 7 innings in Double-A]

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Nationals players were critical of Dave Martinez's decision-making in the first half

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals players were critical of Dave Martinez's decision-making in the first half

Baseball fans love the long ball. They love the flashy plays. They love the no-hit bids and the rare perfect game. All of these things dominate headlines and capture our attention. 

The often overlooked bullpen of a club, however, almost always serves as the glue holding everything together. Relief pitching is derived of unsung heroes who are asked to perform on short notice and in sticky, high-pressure situations. 

Head skipper of the Washington Nationals, Dave Martinez, is being criticized for his handling of the bullpen during the first half of the season. 

By now it's well-documented that the Nats played their first 96 games at .500 leaving the club in third place in a division the team has walked all over back-to-back years. 

Sure, one can chalk it up to injuries, lack of roster changes or an inexperienced first-year manager working through kinks. But, there's a reason this team expects to compete for a pennant year in and year out: depth. The buzz around Martinez's decision-making continues to point toward his inability to dish out relief pitching assignments to the player's liking.  

Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Sammy Solis and Matt Grace once made up the team's relief staff in May. Between disabled-list periods for Kintzler and Madson, and Sammy Solis being sent down to Class AAA Syracuse, the staff took a beating in the month of June. 

Nats relievers aren't necessarily upset about overuse, but more so because of a lack of communication between player and manager. 

At times during the first half of the season, relief pitchers felt overworked and that their wishes were not being acknowledged nor granted by Martinez. 

Sean Doolittle was quick to point out that the addition of Kelvin Herrera, who joined the team on June 18, sparked a change in Martinez's approach. 

“Over the last maybe month or so, maybe since we got Herrera, he’s gone around to the relievers and been a lot more proactive with that communication,” Doolittle said.

On a more tricky note, trust has also been targeted as an area needing improvement. 

When a starter gets in a jam or doesn't seem like he is 100%, Martinez often calls on reinforcements to begin the warming up process. Guys have noticed a pattern in which relief pitchers who initially warm up are often not the ones who start the following inning. 

From a relief pitcher's perspective, this is a sign of Martinez's distrust. Dramatic or not, there was a glaring disconnect throughout the first half of play. 

“With a veteran group, I think we all expect to come into a team and say we’ve all been there; we just want things to go boom, boom, boom and be a piece of cake. But we also all know it’s not like that,” Shawn Kelley said.

Handling his veteran rotation in the second half of the season should become easier for Martinez as Stephen Strasburg is expected to start Friday. The right-hander was placed on the disabled list June 10 with right shoulder inflammation. 

Strasburg pitched 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Potomac on Sunday, allowing three runs while striking out seven and walking one. It was his second rehab start since going on the DL. He allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings for Potomac on July 11. Strasburg is 6-6 with a 3.46 ERA this season, striking out 

95 in 80 2/3 innings.

One thing that hasn't been criticized is Martinez's positive attitude. Players often rave about him as a person and how he brings a source of energy in the clubhouse. 

This was on full display during Monday night's Home Run Derby at Nationals Park. 

Moments after Bryce Harper won the Derby, Martinez was among the first to congratulate his All-Star slugger as he hoisted him in the air. 

As the second half of the season gets underway Friday, expect to see a manager who brings forth an openminded approach to his club while in pursuit of a deep October run. 

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Max Scherzer thoroughly enjoyed the All-Star experience in D.C.

Max Scherzer thoroughly enjoyed the All-Star experience in D.C.

All-Star Weekend is entertaining for fans and provides and much-needed break in the 162-game MLB season.

It’s not all just for fun, though. Following his start Tuesday night, Max Scherzer shared the benefits of being able to spend a few days sharing a locker room with players from across the league.

Being in the clubhouse, talking to veterans, talking to guys who have been here, getting to know everybody, getting the personalities, you can actually learn a lot from the other players in the league. They’re watching you, they’re watching your team and you get these conversations and it’s great. You’re talking about everybody and you find little things in the game that make them successful and what made you successful and see if you can get better.

Scherzer also didn’t hold back when talking about how great a job the city and his team did hosting the rest of the league. This is his sixth season as an All-Star, so he's speaking from quite a bit of experience.

It was awesome, what an atmosphere. I thought we were a great host team, all the other players in here loved the facilities and the treatment they received - D.C. did it right.

So according to Max Scherzer, the All-Star Game is great, but All-Star Weekend in D.C. is as good as it gets.

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