The Reds won 97 games last season on their way to a National League Central title. But they struggled against the Nationals, who took five of seven games on their way to 98 victories of their own.
"The Nationals made it tough on us last year," Reds manager Dusty Baker said before the teams opened a series on Friday night in Cincinnati. "They beat us more than we beat them -- one of the few teams [to do that]. All of the games were close. We know it's going to be tough, but the schedule is what it is. ... It will probably be another tough series with some low-scoring games and close games."
That wasn't the case on Friday, as the Reds won, 15-0, against a Nationals team that allowed a total of one run in a season-opening sweep of the Marlins. But with two games remaining in the series, Cincinnati still must deal with starters Ross Detwiler and Stephen Strasburg.
Detwiler is preparing for what he hopes will be his first full season as a Major League starter. The Nationals' first-round pick (sixth overall) in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft went 10-8 with a 3.40 ERA last year, when he made six of his 33 appearances out of the bullpen.
"I'm not feeling different at all," Detwiler said of having a firm grip on a rotation spot. "I know I'm not going to be sitting down in right field. I'll be in the dugout. That's about it."
Detwiler had a 3.86 ERA in Grapefruit League play, taking a break to compete for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. He will be pitching on nine days' rest.
The same is true for Reds starter Mike Leake, who was ticketed for the bullpen before the Reds decided late this spring to return Aroldis Chapman to the closer's role. That vaulted Leake back into the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation, a year after he went 8-9 with a 4.58 ERA in 30 starts.
Leake won 12 games with a 3.86 ERA in 2011.
"As long as we felt he was back to where he was a couple of years ago, which we think he can be, we're a better team," general manager Walt Jocketty said after the Chapman decision.
Nationals: Tough start for LaRoche
• Manager Davey Johnson said that first baseman Adam LaRoche has been dealing with a sore back, although he was in the starting lineup on Friday. LaRoche went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, making him 0-for-13 this season, although those struggles are not necessarily related to his back.
Tyler Moore replaced LaRoche before the bottom of the seventh inning. Moore has yet to start this season, as Johnson has struggled to find playing time for his reserves in the early going.
• Zach Duke, the only lefty in the Nationals' bullpen, became its last member to appear in a game when he relieved Dan Haren in Friday's fifth inning. Duke gave up six runs, five earned, in 2 2/3 innings.
Reds: Mesoraco set for first start
• The Reds used the same starting lineup in their third straight game on Friday, something they didn't do last season until the first three games of the National League Division Series.
That streak will end on Saturday, when catcher Devin Mesoraco makes his first appearance in the starting lineup, in place of Ryan Hanigan. Mesoraco hit .212 as a rookie in 2012, but .326 this spring in the Cactus League. He went 1-for-2 in relief of Hanigan on Friday, his first at-bats of the season.
• Following Saturday's game, the Reds will host their inaugural Collegiate Invitational, with the University of Cincinnati taking on Louisville in the first NCAA game played at Great American Ball Park. Fans with tickets to the Reds game can stay for no additional charge, while fans coming only for the college game can purchase $5 tickets at the Crosley Terrace ticket windows beginning in the eighth inning.
• The Nationals' loss on Friday was the most lopsided in team history. Last season they never allowed more than 12 runs in a game, and their biggest loss came by 10 runs.
• The Reds also surpassed last season's highs in runs (12) and margin of victory (nine).
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.