WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper didn't get it done, but Ryan Zimmerman did, following Harper's fiery strikeout and ejection with the game on the line in the eighth inning by punching a two-out, two-run double for the go-ahead runs in the Nationals' 8-5 win over the Brewers on Wednesday night at
WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper didn't get it done, but Ryan Zimmerman did, following Harper's fiery strikeout and ejection with the game on the line in the eighth inning by punching a two-out, two-run double for the go-ahead runs in the Nationals' 8-5 win over the Brewers on Wednesday night at Nationals Park.
The Nationals sent 11 men to the plate against four Brewers pitchers and scored seven runs in the decisive eighth -- all with two outs against Brewers reliever Jared Hughes (who was charged with four runs) -- to even the series at a game apiece. With their loss and a Cubs win, the Brewers fell into second place for the first time since May 26, ending a run of 61 days in which Milwaukee held at least a share of the division lead.
"We were due," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "We'd been shut out for [17 1/3] innings. Sometimes you go through streaks where you're just not getting hits. But we were hitting the ball hard. It just got to be like a feeding frenzy. That's a good game for us to win, big time."
● Harper ejected after arguing strike call
Starters Jimmy Nelson for the Brewers and Giovany Gonzalez for the Nats dueled for much of the night before Nelson's four-pitch walk to open the eighth sparked Washington's winning rally. With Brewers reliever Jacob Barnes on in place of Nelson, Brian Goodwin bounced a double over leaping first baseman Jesus Aguilar to move the tying and go-ahead runners into scoring position before Wilmer Difo grounded another perfectly-placed hit through the right side of the infield to tie it at 2.
"I feel great that Dusty had entrusted in me in those opportunities," Difo said through a translator. "I feel like I've been doing a pretty good job lately in those same situations and that's why he's been able to trust me."
Brewers manager Craig Counsell kept mixing and matching, with left-hander Josh Hader winning the battle against Harper before right-hander Hughes served up Zimmerman's go-ahead double to right field. He was the first of five straight Nationals hitters to reach safely against Hughes, who surrendered run-scoring hits to Anthony Rendon, Adam Lind and Pedro Severino before getting the elusive third out.
"We didn't catch a break in that last inning," said Counsell, "and then the floodgates kind of opened with Jared and they put a bunch of extra runs on the board."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Harper heated: Brewers left-hander and Maryland native Hader had upwards of 175 family and friends on hand Wednesday, and they got to see the battle against Harper they were hoping for. With the game tied at 2 and the runners at the corners, Harper reacted angrily when plate umpire Chris Segal called a 1-0 pitch at the bottom of the zone for strike one. After swinging and missing the next two pitches, Harper yelled again and was ejected. It was the 10th time in his career he'd been tossed, though his frustration was eased when Zimmerman followed with the go-ahead hit hit, opening the floodgates in the decisive inning.
"I'd rather have a guy who plays with emotions than a guy who plays with no emotions," Baker said. "I'll take that guy every day. You don't have to pump him up to get him psyched to play. The first pitch on him in a big situation was questionable, and that's what he objected to, and then he struck out. That just sends his emotions to the top and over the top."
Not done yet: The Brewers recalled top prospect Lewis Brinson earlier Wednesday for a second stint in the Majors, and he cashed in by hitting his first Major League home run, a two-run shot, as Milwaukee scored three runs in the ninth against Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle to cut an 8-2 deficit to 8-5. After pinch-hitter Hernan Perez's RBI double, Doolitte regained command by striking out Jonathan Villar and Domingo Santana to end the game.
"We're one hitter away from putting the tying run on base [after being] down six in the ninth," Counsell said. "We put some good at-bats on him, for sure. Even that last at-bat by Domingo was a good at-bat. It certainly took something out of Doolittle."
Way outta here: Santana provided the Brewers an early lead by hitting a monster homer off Gonzalez in a two-run first inning, a solo shot that traveled a Statcast-projected 476 feet onto the concourse beyond the left-center field seats. It was the longest homer by a Brewers hitter this season, and the longest at Nationals Park in the past three seasons.
"I fell. But I said I'm not going to surrender. I'm going home. They have to kill me there." -- Difo, on scoring in the eighth after falling when rounding third base
"You're going through a gauntlet starting with Harper. You're going through some of the best hitters in the game, so it's a challenging part of the lineup to get through. We [did] a nice job of it seven times through with them, and the eighth time just didn't happen." -- Counsell, on the Nats' decisive rally
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Brewers' booming home runs were notable on two fronts. At 461 feet, per Statcast™, Brinson's tied for the third-longest for a player's first career homer since the tracking system debuted in 2015. And with Santana's long ball, the Brewers became the first team to hit multiple home runs of 460-plus feet in a game, and only the third to hit multiple homers of 450-plus feet.
"It would have been a lot sweeter if we would have won," Brinson said. "But it's good to get that first one out of the way. Hopefully that's the first of many." More >
Brewers: In Thursday's 11:05 a.m. CT rubber game, Michael Blazek will make a spot start in place of Matt Garza, who hit the 10-day disabled list Wednesday with a strained right calf. It will be Blazek's 109th Major League appearance but his first big league start, a role he filled ably in part of his time with Triple-A Colorado Springs. In 10 starts in the Minors this year, last on June 28, Blazek had a 2.89 ERA.
Nationals:Max Scherzer, who owns the second-best ERA of all qualified pitchers, will start when the Nationals wrap up their three-game series with the Brewers at Nationals Park on Thursday at 12:05 p.m. ET. The right-hander gave up five runs over five innings in his last start, but he hasn't had back-to-back poor outings this year. He's recorded at least nine strikeouts in 10 of his past 11 starts.
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Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.
Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington and covered the Nationals on Wednesday.