This is what the 2015 Reds were supposed to look like. Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey dominating on the mound. Joey Votto and Jay Bruce returning to form and mashing from the left side; Todd Frazier, Devin Mesoraco from the right. Brandon Phillips, Zack Cozart and Billy Hamilton providing valuable defense up the middle.

Remember that team? I loved the thought of that team.

No Jason Marquis or Kevin Gregg, no Brennan Boesch or bullpen blowups.

No Tommy John. No hip impingement. No shredded knees.

Just lots and lots of wins like tonight.

Reds 5, Nationals 0 | FanGraphs data

A strong case can be made that Max Scherzer has been the best pitcher in the National League this season. His dominant first-half resumé includes a 16-strikeout shutout, five other double-digit strikeout starts, leading the NL in innings pitched, being named NL pitcher of the month — twice. In the past 34 innings, Scherzer had struck out 42 batters and walked one. Oh, and he backed up a one-hit complete game with a near perfect no-hitter. Scherzer leads major league pitchers in FIP, fWAR and bWAR.

Cue the first inning.

Joey Votto lined a no-longer-elite double (video) to the right-center gap knocking in Brandon Phillips who had singled. Jay Bruce narrowly missed a 13th home run (video) when his long fly ball hit 9 feet up the right-center field wall, scoring Votto.

If this kind of first inning success against an ace pitcher sounds familiar, it should.

Max Scherzer hadn’t given up two runs in an inning in a month of starts. The Reds accomplished that twice tonight in knocking Scherzer from the game after 4.2 innings. It was the 30-year-old’s shortest start of the season and the first time in more than 12 months he’d failed to make it through 5.

Later, Votto would add a no-longer-elite home run (video), his fifteenth, and another hit. Jay Bruce would add an RBI single. Brandon Phillips would get on base three times. Frazier and Hamilton chipped in, too.

Johnny Cueto was magnificent. Savor the moment. Nine shutout innings. Two hits. Eleven strikeouts and one work-around walk to Bryce Harper. The best part was watching Cueto’s determination the few times Washington threatened. Cueto bowed his back and stoned them. When the Nats got a lead-off triple, apparently using the strategy of hitting the ball to Skip Schumaker, Cueto struck out the side.

Speaking of Schumaker … he had been 3-for-6 against Max Scherzer prior to tonight. Word had reached the radio broadcast that Price started Schumaker for that reason. If that’s actually the case, it would be hard to find a better example of the Reds forfeiting inches with dumb baseball. Schumaker hadn’t faced Scherzer since 2009 – when Scherzer was 24. Two of Schumakers’s three hits came in 2008, Scherzer’s rookie season. In looking at who Skip Schumaker and Max Scherzer are today, those six plate appearances from more than a half decade ago are more misleading than meaningful.

Luckily, this was one of those rare nights the inches didn’t matter.

Tonight’s victory gives the Reds another series win against Washington. Tomorrow they go for a season sweep of the first-place Nationals behind Michael Lorenzen.