The Associated Press

CINCINNATI - Max Scherzer had given up a leadoff double to Tucker Barnhart leading off in the eighth, then retired Jos Peraza on a popup and fanned Nick Senzel. The nine-pitch at-bat pushed the three-time Cy Young Award winner's pitch count to a season-high 117.

With Joey Votto coming to the plate, Washington manager Dave Martinez walked to the mound. Scherzer shook his head and said he wanted to stay in.

"I've got to hear it from him," Martinez said. "He'd thrown a lot of pitches. We exchanged some non-professional words."

Scherzer struck out Votto on three straight called strikes, freezing him with a 97 mph fastball on the low, outside corner. Scherzer screamed and pumped a fist, spit flying out of his mouth after his 15th strikeout - his most since May 2018. The Nationals held on for a 4-1 win Sunday.

"I knew I was strong," Scherzer said. "I still had my arm strength. I knew I wanted to stay in."

Scherzer (3-5) allowed three hits - all doubles - over eight innings to lead the Nationals to their 12th win in 14 games against the Reds. What was his message to Martinez?

"I'd rather not say," the manager responded with a smile.

Scherzer reached double figures in strikeouts for the fourth time in 13 starts this season and 86th time in his career, the most among active pitchers and seventh-most overall. He retired 13 of his last 14 batters.

"It seems like Scherzer has seven pitches and he can tunnel all of them," Barnhart said. "He sequences them very well. You really have to grind out at bats against him."

Sean Doolittle pitched a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 14 chances. Washington won the final two games of the series after losing the opener and has won seven of nine following a five-game losing streak.

Sonny Gray (2-5) needed 32 pitches to get through the first and gave up two runs and five hits in five innings.

Cincinnati batters struck out 16 times, tying their season high.

Anthony Rendon had three hits, including an RBI single in the first, and raised his average to .331.

Kurt Suzuki doubled the lead with an RBI double in the fourth, but Votto and Derek Dietrich hit consecutive doubles in the bottom half off Scherzer, who had pitched 15 scoreless innings at Great American Ballpark in his career.

Brian Dozier hit a two-run single with two outs in the eighth off Raisel Iglesias.

NATIONALS 5, REDS 2: Tanner Roark's first career homer wasn't enough to get the win against his former Nationals teammates. Instead, it went to the other half of the first Tanner-for-Tanner trade in major league history.

"A weird day," Nationals starter Eric Fedde said.

Except for the outcome. Nothing surprising about the Nationals winning in Cincinnati.

Gerardo Parra hit a three-run homer that ended Roark's streak of keeping the ball in the park and Matt Adams added a solo shot Saturday, leading the Nationals to a 5-2 victory - their ninth in 10 games at Great American Ball Park.

The Nationals faced Roark (4-4) for the first time since trading him to the Reds in the offseason for Tanner Rainey. Both pitchers came away with a career moment.

Roark drove in a run with a squeeze bunt and connected for his first career homer off Fedde, his first in 336 career plate appearances.

"I felt like my emotions were under control," said Roark, who went six innings. "It's definitely a tough loss. The bunt and the home run felt good. I would've rather have won the game."

Two homers made the difference.

Parra's homer in the second inning ended Roark's string of 36 2/3 innings without allowing a homer, the second longest of his career. Adams also connected in the fourth inning, leaving him 6 for 12 career against Roark with three homers. Brian Dozier homered in the ninth.

Roark led the NL with 15 losses last season but has been part of the Reds' successful overhaul of their rotation. He gave up six hits and fanned six in six innings.