Crew's sun-aided rally comes up short in ninth

June 26th, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth wasn't alone Sunday in struggling with the elements at sun-drenched Miller Park.

Brewers hitters were just as confounded in their 3-2 loss at one of baseball's toughest venues on bright, sunny days like Sunday. Werth received a reminder of that in the ninth inning, when he appeared to lose not one, but two fly balls in the sun -- including a Jonathan Villar triple that gave the Brewers an extra at-bat with the tying runner at third base.

"I never saw it, either," Villar said. "When I hit the ball, I just ran. I felt good, because I knew I hit it good. But I didn't know what was going on out there."

Nationals closer Shawn Kelley inherited a 3-1 lead in at the start of the inning and struck out the first two hitters he faced. Pinch-hitter Martin Maldonado gave the Brewers life when he turned on a hanging slider and sent it to the left-field bleachers for a solo home run.

It was the first sign that Werth was fighting the elements. Maldonado's home run sailed 403 feet according to Statcast™, easily clearing the fence, but Werth drifted back on it as if he thought he had a play.

"I thought he was going to catch it," said Maldonado.

Up next was Villar, who hit a 1-2 slider in the air to left field, near the warning track. On a cloudy day, it would have been a routine, game-ending flyout.

Werth never saw it. He stood with his glove shielding his eyes while the baseball bounced a few feet to his left. Villar made it all the way to third base with a triple.

The Brewers could not cash in, however. Scooter Gennett hit a pop fly to shallow left field, and this time, Werth made the play.

"This is a tough field to play in, especially in day games," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "You've got the sun peeking through the windows up top and then you've got a sun field. You saw Ryan Braun, who plays here every day, you saw him almost lose one out there. I'm just glad nobody was on base. Then they tried him again out there."

There were clues earlier in the game that the sun was creating challenges on the field, especially from the glare off the batter's eye in center field. In the second inning, Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy complained to Maldonado after hitting a single that it was hard to see. In that same inning, plate umpire Mike Estabrook rang up Kirk Nieuwenhuis on a called strike three that appeared well above the zone. In the fourth, Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton was charged with a passed ball.

"There can be some tough days here on a bright sunny day like today," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "That's kind of the history of Miller Park. It's normal."