It stayed that way until the sixth when the Nationals scored two runs off Ryan Hendrix and Ashton Goudeau to make it 5-0.
Those two runs proved huge when the Reds scored three in the eighth on singles by Eugenio Suarez, Winker, Castellanos, Tyler Naquin and Tucker Barnhart, plus a sacrifice fly Kyle Farmer.
But with the potential two tying runs on base, Jonathan India struck out.
Of more foreboding news, the Reds lost starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman in the game’s early stages Wednesday.
After he had given up two runs, two hits and five walks, Hoffman summoned manager David Bell to the mound and he was removed and placed on the injured list.
The crowded injured list now contains Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Michael Lorenzen, Wade Miley and Hoffman. Miley, though, is expected to return Sunday to make a start m Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.
“Hoffman went back to Cincinnati for an examination,” said Bell. “The shoulder impingement does not require surgery. He is going to have an aggressive rehab on it and try to get back as quick as he can.”
Catcher Tucker Barnhart noticed early that something was amiss with Hoffman.
“His velocity seemed to tick down,” he said. “His velocity didn’t tick down that much, but the life on his fastball was a little bit off.”
Hoffman was up to his neck in troubled waters from the game’s first pitch, before it even began to rain Wednesday night, forcing a 2-hour, 45-minute wait before the game was suspended.
He barely survived 1 1/3 innings and left with the Reds trailing, 2-0. And it could have been worse.
He walked the second hitter in the first inning. Josh Bell slapped an opposite field two-strike single against the shift. And Bell was 5 for 7 for his career against Hoffman.
With two outs, Starlin Castro singled for a run. Hoffman walked the next two on 3-and-2 counts. The second walk was to catcher Alex Avila, batting .173. And it forced in a second run.
The bases were still loaded with two outs. Despite the fact Hoffman had walked two straight and three in the inning, Andrew Stevenson swung at the first pitch and flied to right.
It was more of the same for Hoffman in the second. With one out, he walked two more. After the second one, his fifth he called for Bell to come to the mound.
Brad Brach replaced Hoffman and with two outs Kyle Schwarber was credited with an infield hit when second baseman Jonathan India hesitated on his throw to first.
That filled the bases again and opposing pitcher Joe Ross poked an 0-and-2 pitch to right field for a run and a 3-0 Nationals lead.
The Reds put two runners on in the first on a single by Jesse Winker and a walk to Tyler Naquin. But Tyler Stephenson was retired on a sharp grounder to third.
They put two on in the second on back-to-back one-out singles by Kyle Farmer and India. Hoffman tried to bunt but forced Farmer at third and Eugenio Suarez grounded to shortstop.
The Reds went 1-2-3 against Ross in the fourth and the skies opened with thunder rumbling and lightning dancing. The tarp was placed on the field and the long, long delay began.
Before the eighth inning Thursday, the Reds mounted just one rally and it was snuffed by a running faux pas by Winker.
With two outs in the fifth, Suarez singled. Winker singled to right field as Suarez scooted to third. But Winker unwisely tried to stretch his single into a double and right fielder Stevenson threw him out, ending the inning.
“We scratched three runs off Daniel Hudson, one of the better pitchers in the league,” said Barnhart. “And we had the tying run at the plate in the ninth inning and that’s all you can ask for. We were facing another good arm in (closer) Brad Hand.”
After a long rest period, the Reds and Nationals were scheduled to play Thursday regularly scheduled game at 7:05, but it was scheduled for only seven innings.