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CIN@WSH: Simon hurls seven strong innings

WASHINGTON -- The Reds are well aware of Alfredo Simon's resilient right arm. As for first-year manager Bryan Price's ability to deliver a passionate and perfectly-timed mid-game speech to his squad, that came out of left field -- or rather, the dugout. Simon dazzled for the second straight start, and two fourth-inning runs were enough as the Reds defeated the Nationals, 2-1, on Wednesday at Nationals Park.

Simon (6-2) allowed one run on five hits over seven innings with six strikeouts and one walk. The right-hander, who also had a double in three at-bats, has won five of his last six decisions.

Brandon Phillips had two hits and an RBI while scoring the go-ahead run on Brayan Pena's base hit. Zack Cozart also had three hits. All the offense came moments after Price's motivational speech with the Reds trailing, 1-0.

"This one was a perfect one," Pena said. "I don't know if I can find a better one, better timing. He really said some great things there. It really encouraged us to go back and do what we do. … I didn't know he could speak like that."

Price passed on detailing his specific words of wisdom at that moment, but he added, "Right now every win is at a premium. We haven't quite gotten to that point where I think we show up and anticipate winning every day."

Cincinnati had lost three of four games -- including Tuesday's 9-4 setback -- but claimed the three-game series from Washington, which began with a 15-inning victory on Monday.

Denard Span, who homered to lead off the game for the Nats, was left stranded with two outs in the eighth as Jonathan Broxton struck out Wilson Ramos. Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth for his third save.

Before the game, Cincinnati activated right fielder Jay Bruce (knee) from the disabled list and placed first baseman Joey Votto (strained left quadriceps) on the 15-day DL retroactive to May 16.

"We have the players to do it," Price said. "Now we're getting fairly reliable pitching, we've been spectacular defensively … and we have the ability to do more offensively. We know that we're better than we've performed."

Rain delayed the game for 61 minutes during the top of the sixth inning.

Tanner Roark (3-2) pitched six innings, allowing two runs (one earned) and six hits for the Nationals.

Both starters remained in the game following the delay. Many of the 28,944 fans did not.

Simon pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings in Philadelphia in his previous start on Friday. He lost the shutout with the very first batter on Wednesday. Span led off the bottom of the first with a blast over the right-field wall. The Nationals wouldn't score again.

"[Simon] has multiple arm angles," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "He has been pitching well for them. "

Following the stoppage, Simon retired the first five batters he faced -- including the side on five pitches in the sixth.

"I just feel great," Simon said. "I know it's a rain delay. I know the bullpen was [taxed] right now. I just tried to go out and throw seven or eight innings, and that's what I did."

Price went to the bullpen after the seventh.

"The toughest part of my game was telling [Simon] he wasn't going to go back out there for the eighth inning," Price said.

"He's not just a special talent, but really a special arm. It's a gift to be as resilient as he is."

Cozart doubled to open the fourth and scored on Phillips' RBI single. Phillips moved into scoring position after a fielding error by Nationals third baseman Kevin Frandsen and later scored on Pena's base hit for a manager-inspired 2-1 lead.

"That was awesome, that was great," Pena said. "[Price] really touched us, really gave us some motivation. It really fired this lineup up. He was very clutch."

Bruce, out since May 4 following surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee, did not play. Price expects the right fielder to return to action when Cincinnati comes home for a three-game series vs. the Cardinals starting Friday.

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