A strange game ended with the Brewers on top 6-5 today as the two teams honored Negro League teams, and the Crew has won the series against the (g)Nats going into tomorrow’s finale. The Brewers wore Milwaukee Bear uniforms while the Nationals had on those of the Homestead Grays.
The Brewers battered Nats starter Gio Gonzalez for 6 runs and 6 hits in 3 innings, highlighted by a 3 run first inning homerun by Chris Carter. They tacked on a run in the second on an RBI single up the middle by Jonathon Villar, driving in Keon Broxton. Villar ended the day with 3 hits, a run, an RBI, a double, and a stolen base. The final two scored in the third - and both had reached base by being hit in the back foot on a breaking ball. Ryan Braun led off the inning getting hit, and after Jonathon Lucroy looked at strike 3, Carter was also hit. Hernan Perez drove in one with a double, and the Brewers’ final run came in when Carter just beat Daniel Murphy’s throw home on a roller off the bat of Scooter Gennett.
Washington was playing the infield in, and the play went to review but Carter clearly beat the throw. The Brewers weren’t so lucky two other times at the plate, when Villar was thrown out at home by Jayson Werth after a single from Aaron Hill in the second, and Braun was thrown out at home by Bryce Harper on a single by Carter. If Braun had slid with his front foot down he would have scored.
That was it, and it was just enough. Brewers’ starter Matt Garza wasn’t quite as sharp in his third start as in his first two, but the six early runs were just enough to give him his first win of the season. The Nationals scored once in the second after the red-hot Daniel Murphy led off the inning with a triple to right and scored when the red-hot Wilson Ramos singled him home. If Harper were hitting right now the Nats would never lose.
Washington scored twice in the fourth when Ryan Zimmerman led off with a walk and advanced to third on a double by Anthony Rendon. Trailing 6-1 with runners on second and third the Nats went bunty, and Danny Espinosa plated the first run of the inning with a successful squeeze. The second run of the inning came in on a sacrifice fly, and the Brewers led 6-3 heading into the bottom of the fourth.
Garza worked six innings, and allowed his fourth run when Espinosa hit a sac fly in the top of the sixth, scoring Zimmerman. Will Smith relieved in the seventh and gave up a walk (to Werth) and a hit (to Murphy) around a foulout by Harper. Torres relieved Smith and gave up a hit to Ramos, and then a bases loaded sac fly to Zimmerman, to the track in center. Rendon bounced to second to end the inning, leaving things at 6-5.
With Tyler Thornburg unavailable, Michael Blazek got the eighth. He walked Espinosa to start the inning, then retired Stephen Drew pinch hitting on a fly to left. Ben Revere bounced an easy double play ball up the middle, and Villar gloved it, stepped on second, and threw slightly high to first. The ball glanced off of Carter’s glove and into the seats, so instead of going to the bottom of the eighth, Blazek had to face Werth. His bouncer to short was successfully converted, and the lead stood.
Jeremy Jeffress got the ninth, and gave up his obligatory lead off single to Harper. It was more of a bloop than a smash, but still...
Murphy hit the ball hard to right, but close enough to Ramon Flores (in for the ninth in place of Perez) for him to catch it for the first out. Ramos ended his second straight game, this time bouncing into an around the horn double play from Hill to Scooter Gennett to Carter.
So the Nats had four runs driven in with a squeeze bunt and three sacrifice flies; they also had Ben Revere try and bunt against Garza twice, being thrown out by Hill the first time and Lucroy the second. Oh! and Garza fielded the squeeze bunt and got Espinosa at first! Espinosa had four plate appearances with two walks, a sacrifice bunt, and a sacrifice fly. 0 for 0 with two RBI.
In contrast, the Brewers made the last out in two innings by having a runner on second thrown out at the plate on hits to the outfield. Villar was first, Braun made the second out. Villar in particular seemed to get a slow break off of second. Scooter Gennett had ANOTHER hit against a lefty. Gonzalez gave up his 6 runs in 3 innings, but still struck out 6. The Nats had 10 hits and 5 walks, drove in 4 runs with sacrifice hits, and still only scored 5.
Brewers’ first round pick Corey Ray signed today and was at Miller Park to meet folks and take some BP. Bill Schroeder reported that he hit several into the Dew Deck. Ray acquitted himself well in a half inning spent with BA and Rock, and was right on top of the game during his chat. He starts at Brevard County next week. He reminded me of Tony Gwinn in his interview, but that could have been just his soft-spoken voice. A very engaging young man.
The Brewers improved to 34-40, and the Nats (losers of seven straight) fell to 43-32. Tomorrow afternoon, Jimmy Nelson (5-6, 3.80) goes against Stephen Strasburg (10-0, 2.90). Strasburg missed his last start in LA with a rib issue, but the Nats seem confident he will be able to go as they used spot starter Yusmeiro Petit for two innings today.
Edit: Strasburg scratched from tomorrows start with upper back tightness.