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CIN@WSH: Ludwick's clutch single ties it in the ninth

WASHINGTON -- Two young starting pitchers involved in two of the biggest offseason trades in baseball were matched when the Reds sent Mat Latos out to face the Nationals' Gio Gonzalez on Thursday.

Latos is still searching for his groove in Cincinnati, as he went five innings on a day the Reds needed a little more. A strapped bullpen was exposed in extra innings when Alfredo Simon hit one batter and threw a wild pitch that scored the winning run in the 10th for a 3-2 Reds loss at Nationals Park.

"We were hoping to get six or seven [innings] and piece it together," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of his plan with Latos on the mound. "Then he exited after five, and we were already short coming into today. It came back to bite us."

In a 2-2 game to begin the bottom of the 10th, Simon hit leadoff batter Ryan Zimmerman with a pitch. Jayson Werth hit a one-out single to left field, and Xavier Nady's groundout moved both runners into scoring position.

Pitching coach Bryan Price visited the mound, but the decision was made not to issue an intentional walk to Roger Bernadina to load the bases.

"You don't want to walk Bernadina," said Baker, "and put [Simon] a situation where sometimes he had a tendency to be wild and take a chance on walking in a run."

The run scored anyway, as Simon's 0-1 pitch to Bernadina bounced in the dirt off catcher Devin Mesoraco before going right off the plate. Mesoraco attempted a desperation toss to a covering Simon, but it wasn't in time as Zimmerman slid home safely.

"In that situation, I just tried to make a pitch," Simon said. "[Mesoraco] blocked the ball, but it went to that side. Next time I go out there, I'll try to do it better."

Latos finished with two runs and five hits allowed over five innings, with three walks and one strikeout. But his pitch count spiked to 99 pitches with a few long sequences, including Danny Espinosa's 11-pitch plate appearance for a walk in the first inning.

"There are no excuses, really," Latos said. "A couple of walks hurt, and a couple of long at-bats hurt me. I've faced these guys plenty of times. I felt like they had a little different approach than they normally do. I threw a couple of sliders that were borderline [strikes], and I figured certain hitters would have swung at [them]."

It was a still scoreless game in the fifth, however, when Gonzalez blooped a one-out single out of Ryan Ludwick's reach into left field to start the home half of the fifth. Latos had the next batter, Ian Desmond, down in an 0-2 count, but could not finish him before allowing a single to center field.

Espinosa was down in a 1-2 count when Latos issued three straight balls for a walk that loaded the bases. Zimmerman then grounded to shortstop, where Zack Cozart made a fielder's choice play to the plate. Adam LaRoche then hit a two-run single up the middle.

"Could've, should've, would've. It's whatever," Latos said. "I went on the attack early and got defensive later on. That was probably why."

Latos, who was acquired from the Padres for three prospects and Edinson Volquez, has a 5.59 ERA through his first two starts. He gave up four runs over 4 2/3 innings on Saturday in his Reds debut vs. the Marlins on Saturday.

The bullpen took over Thursday as Sam LeCure worked two scoreless innings, followed by two more scoreless innings by Jose Arredondo, despite a bases-loaded scare in the bottom of the ninth. Arredondo escaped when Espinosa grounded to the mound, and the reliever fired home to Mesoraco, who threw to first as Wilson Ramos barreled into the plate for the inning-ending double play that forced extras.

Simon took over for the 10th inning.

"We were in a tough spot there," Baker said. "We didn't have [Logan] Ondrusek today, because he's gone four out of five. We didn't have [Aroldis] Chapman, he went two innings yesterday. We were down to Billy Bray or [closer Sean] Marshall."

Gonzalez, the central figure in a six-player blockbuster trade from Oakland to Washington, also did not fare well in his previous start and debut. Against the Reds however, he was brilliant, with two hits allowed over seven scoreless innings, with no walks and seven strikeouts.

The Reds rallied to tie the game in the top of the ninth against closer Brad Lidge. Joey Votto drew a one-out walk before Scott Rolen lined a double down the line through Zimmerman's glove at third base to put runners on second and third. Washington put the go-ahead run on first base by intentionally walking Bruce and bringing up Ludwick, who was 1-for-10 lifetime against Lidge.

Ludwick rolled a single down the line, which also went through Zimmerman, to score Votto and Rolen.

"Thank God we won that game, because if we would have lost that game, I couldn't sleep tonight," Zimmerman said. "They are not routine plays like they call them, but I expect myself to make those plays. You can kind of forget about it and laugh about it now."

"We were one hit away from possibly winning that game and snatching it from them," Baker said. "That was a tough way to lose a game."

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