Things aren't getting any easier any time soon for the struggling Nationals.
The defending National League East champions are coming off a mid-week sweep at the hands of the Cardinals, dropping them to 10-11 -- a sub-.500 record for the first time since the last day of the 2011 season, when they ended the year at 80-81.
And now the Nats get the Reds, who just finished off a series win against the Cubs and whose starting pitchers' collective ERA dropped to 2.99 after a 1-0 win Wednesday. Reds starters haven't allowed more than two runs in any game since April 14, a span of 10 starts.
"I'm impressed by it," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It means they're throwing a lot of pitches, though. I'm not impressed that we've had an equal amount of strikeouts on our side. That's unimpressive."
It'll be up to Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez to try to right the ship on Thursday at Nationals Park in Washington.
Gonzalez had a meltdown in the fourth inning of his last start, against the Mets, after being given a 3-0 lead in the first three innings.
He allowed five runs with two outs in the fourth. Ten hitters came to bat in the inning.
Gonzalez, 1-1 with a 5.85 ERA this year, managed to escape the outing with a no-decision as a pair of Bryce Harper homers aided his cause.
"It's one of those things you can't explain," catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "[Gonzalez] threw some good pitches and started falling behind in the count a little bit. The curveball started popping up. He threw two over [Lucas Duda's] head. He threw a couple up to righties. It happened with two outs. ... It happens, you learn from it and move on."
The Reds struck out just six hitters as a staff on Wednesday against the Cubs, snapping a streak of six games with at least 10 combined strikeouts.
"We have to increase our road record," Baker said of the upcoming trip. "It's a very, very tough road trip we're about to go on."
Nationals: Lineup changes coming?
The Nationals' offense has been stagnant for the last few games, and manager Davey Johnson is trying to keep an even keel.
"All of them are so motivated and driven to be so good, it's kind of hard for me to berate them or get on them because I know they're grinding," said Johnson. "They're foxhole guys. They come to play. We've just to ride out the rough times. Last year we started … really slow offensively.
"Of course, we had some key guys out -- and we have a key guy out right now in Zim -- but the pitching was our mainstay early on, kept us in ballgames. It's showing little signs of life coming around, so now we just need to wait on the offense. It's tough waiting."
In an effort to jump-start the offense, Johnson sat veteran first baseman Adam LaRoche in favor of youngster Tyler Moore in Wednesday's series finale against the Cardinals, and suggested that Steve Lombardozzi could see more action soon (likely at third base, with Ryan Zimmerman hurt and rookie Anthony Rendon struggling) and Jayson Werth may hit lower in the order.
Lombardozzi is hitting .345 through 14 games this year.
Reds: Arroyo after another strong outing
Right-hander Bronson Arroyo will be the man tasked with keeping the Reds in the game against the tough Nationals lineup.
Arroyo, 2-1 with a 3.54 ERA, has been in a groove of late, throwing eight-inning outings in his last two starts.
• Reds starters had quality starts in nine of 10 outings on their recent homestand.
• The Reds' Sean Marshall was expected to throw in a rehab game on Wednesday for Triple-A Louisville. He has been eligible for activation from the disabled list since Tuesday.
Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.