If the last 48 hours of baseball between the Nationals and Reds are any indication, there are two conclusions to draw about these well-constructed ballclubs: 1) There's a good chance they could see each other again, with the stakes much higher, in October, and 2) Those games figure to be tightly contested and come down to a couple of key moments.

That much was obvious both Saturday and Sunday afternoons as the Nats and Reds traded blows during the final two games of a highly entertaining series. (Friday night's 15-0 whitewashing by Cincinnati was a fluke aberration more than anything.)

On Saturday, it was the Nationals coming up big with the game on the line late. On Sunday, the tables were turned.

Thanks to an aggressive approach against Stephen Strasburg and one ill-fated decision by Danny Epsinosa, the Reds pulled off a 6-3 victory to capture this early-April series between NL powerhouses and send the Nationals home no longer in first place in the NL East.

"They obviously have a good team," shortstop Ian Desmond said. "Every guy in their lineup is pretty much like us: Guys hit the ball out of the ballpark and give good, disciplined at-bats. ... But we didn't put our best foot forward."

No, they didn't, especially during Sunday's finale at Great American Ball Park, and certainly not during a critical moment in the bottom of the sixth.

With the game knotted at 3 and both starters settling down after an early barrage of offense, the Reds found themselves with a golden opportunity to re-take the lead: Runners on the corners, nobody out, No. 2 hitter Xavier Paul at the plate with MVP candidate Joey Votto on-deck. Strasburg -- his pitch count already into triple digits -- got Paul to rap a sharp grounder right at Espinosa, who like Desmond was playing halfway in for that situation.

It appeared to be a tailor-made, 4-6-3 double play, albeit it one that would allow the go-ahead run to score. Even so, that one run seemed a small price to pay to clear the bases, record two outs and not allow Votto to step to the plate with a chance to inflict some real damage.