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May 30, 8:14 PM EDT

Harper sits, Nationals blow late lead and lose to Reds 8-5


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CINCINNATI (AP) -- All that Bryce Harper could do was rest his sore back and watch the late meltdown.

Joey Votto hit a two-run homer - his second in two days - and Zack Cozart doubled with the bases loaded in the eighth inning on Saturday, rallying the Cincinnati Reds to an 8-5 victory over the short-handed Washington Nationals.

Cozart's double highlighted a four-run inning off Casey Janssen (0-1). Billy Hamilton followed with a two-run single.

The Nationals were missing Harper, scratched from the lineup because of a sore back. He was hit on the spine by Tony Cingrani's pitch on Friday night during Cincinnati's 5-2 win and had words with the pitcher.

The back was so stiff on Saturday that he had to be scratched from the lineup. He could miss the final game of the series on Sunday as well - a tough way to end his impressive month.

"I tried to get loose but when I went on the field, it didn't feel very good," Harper said. "It's more of a bone bruise. When I swing and I turn, it doesn't feel very good. I don't want to switch anything up. I don't want to try to do something else that I haven't been doing."

Harper hit 13 homers in May - a club record for any month - and batted .369 with four doubles, a triple and 28 RBIs.

On Saturday, Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez got hit twice, including on his pitching elbow in the sixth inning after Michael Taylor hit a three-run homer. Several Nationals yelled from the dugout after the left-hander was plunked. Reds third baseman Todd Frazier yelled back.

Gonzalez kept moving the left elbow, trying to loosen it up, and went back out to pitch the bottom of the inning and gave up two runs.

"That was just me wanting to go out there and pitch," Gonzalez said. "There's no better way to put it."

With a late rally, the Reds won consecutive games for the first time in more than two weeks, ending Washington's club-record streak of winning nine consecutive series. The NL East leaders have lost consecutive games for the first time since April 26-27.

J.J. Hoover (3-0) retired all three batters on grounders in the eighth. Aroldis Chapman walked two while getting his ninth save in as many chances.

Taylor was in a 1-for-24 slump with 13 strikeouts when he connected off Raisel Iglesias for a 5-2 lead. Ryan Zimmerman and Denard Span had RBI singles off Iglesias.

Frazier had a single and two doubles. His first extra-base hit helped the Reds cut it to 5-4 in the sixth. His one-out double started the go-ahead rally in the eighth, when Cincinnati sent nine batters to the plate.

STREAK BUSTED

Ian Desmond went 0 for 4, ending his 13-game hitting streak, two shy of his career high.

YOU'RE GONE

Third baseman Yunel Escobar was ejected by plate umpire Andy Fletcher for arguing a called third strike in the seventh inning.

NATIONALS MOVES

Right-hander Taylor Hill was called up from Triple-A Syracuse to shore up the bullpen as a long reliever for the next few days. Hill was 3-2 with a 4.35 ERA in nine starts.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg, who left Friday night's start after 16 pitches because of a stiff neck, went on the 15-day DL and was sent back to Washington for an exam.

Reds: 2B Brandon Phillips was back in the lineup after being limited to pinch hitting the last three games because of a sore toe on his left foot. He went 0 for 5.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Tanner Roark (1-2) makes his second consecutive start after opening the season with 13 relief appearances. He gave up three hits and a run in five innings of a 2-1 win over the Cubs on Monday.

Reds: Michael Lorenzen (1-2) makes his fifth career start, facing the Nationals for the first time.

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