WASHINGTON — Dusty Baker didn't like his options. Two of the Cincinnati Reds manager's top relievers were unavailable, and he didn't want to use his closer in a tied game.
So Baker chose Alfredo Simon, and the move failed. Simon hit Ryan Zimmerman with a pitch to start the 10th inning and three batters later, threw a wild pitch that allowed Zimmerman to score the winning run.
The Cincinnati Reds' 3-2 loss to the Nationals on Thursday was disheartening to Baker, who bemoaned his lack of bullpen options.
"That was a tough way to lose a game. We were in a tough spot there," Baker said.
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Aroldis Chapman worked two innings on Wednesday, and Logan Ondrusek already pitched in five of Cincinnati's first six games. So Baker wasn't going to use either of them. If the Reds had gone ahead in the ninth or 10th, Baker would have turned to closer Sean Marshall.
Instead, he went with Simon, who was waived by Baltimore on March 30. After Simon (0-1) hit Zimmerman, he retired Adam LaRoche on a foul pop and allowed a single to Jayson Werth. Both runners moved up on Xavier Nady's infield out.
With an 0-1 count on Roger Bernadina, Simon threw a split-finger fastball in the dirt, and Zimmerman bolted home and slid under catcher Devin Mesoraco's tag.
"I just tried to throw the ball down. It got away. Nothing we can do," Simon said.
It was his second wild pitch in 31⁄3 innings, matching the number he threw last year in 1152⁄3 innings with the Orioles. "I think I got bad luck," Simon said.
Craig Stammen (1-0) struck out the side in the 10th for the win.
Washington took a 2-0 lead into the ninth, but Brad Lidge blew the save chance. Lidge is sharing closer duties with Henry Rodriguez because Drew Storen had surgery Wednesday and will be out for months.
With one out, Lidge walked Joey Votto, then gave up Scott Rolen's double and intentionally walked Jay Bruce to load the bases. The free pass didn't work though, because Ryan Ludwick hit a two-run single past Zimmerman.
"We were one hit away from possibly winning that game," Baker said.
Washington loaded the bases in the ninth but failed to score because Danny Espinosa grounded into a double play.
Earlier, it looked as if Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez would get his first win for his new team, which acquired him from Oakland for four prospects over the winter.
Gonzalez threw seven innings of two-hit ball, and fill-in cleanup hitter LaRoche delivered a two-run, bases-loaded single in the fifth to put Washington ahead.
Gonzalez gave up a pair of doubles — to Bruce in the second, and Mesoraco in the fifth — and that was it, before leaving. Gonzalez didn't walk a batter.
He even added his first major-league hit, for good measure, a blooper of a single to left off Mat Latos with one out in the fifth.
Ian Desmond followed with a single, and Latos walked Espinosa to load the bases for Zimmerman, who grounded to shortstop Zack Cozart, who threw home for the forceout.
LaRoche, the first baseman who played in only 43 games last season because of shoulder problems, then came through. Hitting fourth in the lineup in place of the injured Michael Morse, LaRoche bounced a single through the middle to put the hosts ahead.
Latos went five innings, giving up two runs, five hits and three walks. It was much better than his less-than-five-inning first outing for the Reds.
Cincinnati, still without injured second baseman Brandon Phillips, has scored eight runs in its past four games.