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Brewer bullpen collapses after rain delay: Nationals 5, Brewers 4

Four run eighth by Washington decisive

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals
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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

WP: Greg Holland (1-2) ; LP: Joakim Soria (1-4) ; Save: Justin Miller (2) ; Homeruns: Mil - Manny Pina (8), Tyler Saladino (5); Wash - none

This is one depressing Box Score

The Milwaukee Brewers (76-61) led the Washington Nationals (68-68) 3-1 with one out in the top of the eighth and two on. Then came a two hour rain delay, and things fell apart once play resumed. The Brewers failed to score in the top of the eighth, and a four run, two out, nobody on base rally in the bottom of the eighth by the Nationals against three Milwaukee relievers propelled the Nats to a 5-4 win. It felt like the Brewers were in control, and then things just slipped away in torturous fashion. Last night the Brewers walked the tight rope and while they wobbled, they stayed up. Tonight they fell off.

Both starting pitchers were very sharp at the outset. Stephen Strasburg gave up just a single in his first three innings, and Jonathan Schoop was erased on a line-out double play. For Milwaukee, Chase Anderson faced the minimum through four innings, using two double plays on one-out grounders in the third and fourth.

Strasburg was the first to show any signs of mortality in the top of the fourth. Of the five Brewers to come to the plate, two walked and three struck out, but for the first time Strasbourg had to work, and went through 29 pitches. In the top of the fifth, Mike Moustakas doubled on the first pitch of the inning, then Schoop pulled a shot down the third base line that glanced off of Anthony Rendon’s glove and behind him. Rendon just trotted after the ball, and Moose kept coming around third and scored easily. Rendon was originally charged with an error, but that was later changed to an RBI double for Schoop. Manny Pina’s pulled a groundball into the hole that Trea Turner backhanded; Schoop held second base and Turner’s only play was to first, where his throw was late to get Pina.

Anderson struck out trying to bunt (that’s what a foul bunt attempt on a third strike is supposed to mean), and Lorenzo Cain’s slow roller to third resulted in a force at second with Schoop getting to third.

With runners at the corners, Christian Yelich surprised no-one and delighted Brewer fans with another big hit, this one a solid line drive single into right to schoore Schoop. Right fielder Adam Eaton bobbled the ball a few times, allowing Cain to go to third, but Jesus Aguilar grounded to short to end the inning. 2-0 Brewers.

Given a lead, Chase retired his first hitter in the bottom of the fifth but then allowed three straight singles and a run, with runners at first and third. Spencer Kieboom’s bloop to right was nabbed on a sliding catch by (you guessed it) Yelich, with both runners holding. With the tying run at third Dave Martinez elected to let Strasburg hit, and he nubbed one in front of the plate where Manny Pina grabbed it and threw out Strasbourg, ending the inning with the Brewers up 2-1.

Chase was replaced after the fifth, and his final line was five innings, four hits, one earned run, a walk, and a strikeout.

Strasburg did breeze through the sixth, but came out without a pinch hitter after that inning. His replacement, Jimmy Cordero, showed why Martinez was loathe to put in anyone else by giving up a homer to Pina, the second hitter he faced. When he gave up an infield single to Cain, he was replaced with lefty specialist Tim Collins, who retired Yelich the only way you can - on a groundball to second. 3-1 Crew.

New Milwaukee loogy Xavier Cedeno made his Brewer debut in the bottom of the sixth, with two of the first hitters being of the left handed batting persuasion (Eaton and Bryce Harper). It was, to put it mildly, a rousing success. The Nats went down in order, and Cedeno struck out Harper on a nasty slider/curve/slurve to end the inning.

Corbin Burnes pitched around a one out double by Juan Soto for a scoreless seventh.

The rains had started in the seventh, and by the top of the eighth it was absolutely pouring - much like last night. Aguilar popped out, Travis Shaw walked, and Ryan Braun lined a single off of Nationals’ hurler Wander Suaro. While Washington trainers and Martinez were checking Suaro for his fitness to continue, head Ump Mark Carlson waved out the tarp to stop baseball for a serious rain delay.

Almost two hours later play resumed. Lefty Matt Grace was on to face Moustakas, and got a fielder’s choice groundball, putting runners on first and third with two down. Of course, that was it for Grace -why not? Greg Holland came in and walked Curtis Granderson in his first Brewer at bat, but retired Pina on a nice running catch in foul territory by Ryan Zimmerman to keep Milwaukee off the scoreboard in the eighth.

In the bottom of the eighth, Joakim Soria retired the first two hitters easily, and got two strikes on four straight hitters - but every one of them reached. Eaton doubled down the left field line, Turner blooped a single to left center to score Eaton, and after getting ahead of Harper Soria’s control deserted him. The next three pitches were well out of the zone (the first of which saw Turner steal second). He fell behind Rendon 3-1, got it to 3-2, and missed badly for ball four.

Dan Jennings replaced Soria to face Juan Soto, who had two hits in his last two at bats and had scored the Nats’ first run. Soto’s two run hit up the middle was a killer for the Brewers, and the Nationals took their first lead at 4-3. Oh, those bases on balls.

Jordan Lyles replaced Jennings and his wild pitch plated an insurance run for Washington, which proved valuable when Tyler Saladino led off the top of the ninth with a homerun off of the Nationals’ closer Justin Miller. Cain and Yelich were retired, but Jesus Aguilar blooped a single into right center to set things up for Travis Shaw, but the Mayor flew out to left to end the game.

Tomorrow afternoon (weather permitting - just kidding; forecast is good - where have I heard that before?) will see Junior Guerra going for a bounce-back start after his debacle earlier this week in Cincinnati. Juni G is 6-9 with a 4.09 ERA. The Nats will start not-Max-Scherzer rookie Jefry Rodriguez, who is 2-1 with a 4.54 ERA. A win gives the crew a series win. The Cards’ loss to the Reds had given Milwaukee a golden opportunity to pass them in the wild card standings and in the division, but it wasn’t to be.

Game Notes:

  • The Brewers first double play almost wasn’t. With a runner at first and one down in the third, Strasbourg pulled back from a bunt and swung, bouncing a ball directly to Shaw at second. His throw to Schoop was perfect, but it took Jonathan about five minutes to get the ball out of his glove and he barely nipped the Nats’ pitcher at first.
  • However, their second twin killing was a thing of beauty. With the speedy Turner at first, Harper pulled a sharp grounder that Shaw grabbed moving towards second. With Schoop shifted to the first base side of second, Shaw’s throw had to lead him to the bag - and it wasn’t a short throw; it was perfect. Schoop made a very quick turn and his throw to first was in plenty of time to get the speedy Harper. Who says big guys can’t play middle infield?
  • Manny Pina returned from his five stitch in the lower lip HBP to crack his eighth homer, and with Kratz dinger last night the hot hitting by Milwaukee catchers continues. Jacob Nottingham may do a lot of watching for the rest of the season.
  • It’s starting to seem like the Brewers are toast when Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader are unavailable.