WASHINGTON -- After scoring two total runs without a homer over the first two games of their series against the Brewers, the Nationals launched three long balls in a 7-4 win in Wednesday's series finale at Nationals Park.
The victory helped the Nats avoid a sweep and sends them into a four-game series against the second-place Mets on a positive note.
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"You never want to get swept," said starter Tanner Roark, who picked up the win. "It was a good team win; a happy train ride, and go get the Mets tomorrow."
The Nationals scored six of their seven runs off the trio of homers. Bryce Harper gave them a 3-0 lead with an opposite-field shot in the first, and Jose Lobaton added to the lead with a solo home run the next inning. After the Brewers scored four runs in the third to tie the game, including Scooter Gennett's theft of home on a double steal, Washington re-took the lead on Stephen Drew's ground-rule double and extended it on Ryan Zimmerman's two-run blast.
It was a rough afternoon for Milwaukee starter Matt Garza, who allowed eight hits and seven runs in 4 1/3 innings.
"I was behind a lot of counts today, and that's what happens," Garza said. "Especially with the weather today; it was real, real warm. You can't be putting too much pressure on yourself. When you're pitching behind and you've got guys on, that's what it is."
On the other side, Roark lasted seven innings, giving up four runs on seven hits, with most of that damage coming in the third. Sammy Solis, Shawn Kelley and Jonathan Papelbon finished off the Brewers.
Papelbon struck out the side in the ninth to record his first save since returning from the disabled list, with his fastball consistently hitting 92 mph.
"His velocity's up, he's stronger, it was almost like getting a new player back," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "Rarely during the course of the year do you have that time to get your strength back."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Harper goes oppo: Batting in the cleanup spot for the first time this season, Harper lined a changeup just over the wall in left-center field for a three-run home run in the first inning. The blast was Harper's 18th of the season, tying him for the Nats' team lead with Danny Espinosa, and only his third to left field. After slotting Harper third in the order all season, Washington manager Dusty Baker moved him down a spot Wednesday, with Daniel Murphy moving up. Harper finished 1-for-4.
"Whatever skip wants to do," Harper said. "Skip, he knows what's best for this team, and whatever he says goes. I just go out there and play hard, no matter where I play, where I hit. I just want to win ballgames." More >
Stealing a run: The Brewers capped their four-run third inning with their first steal of home in nearly three years. With runners at the corners and one out, Jonathan Lucroy broke from first base on Chris Carter's swinging third strike. When the throw went down to second, Lucroy stopped in his tracks and Gennett broke from third, beating Murphy's off-target throw, and Lucroy stole second. The Brewers' previous steal of home, by Jean Segura on Aug. 13, 2013, was on a similar double steal.
"It's not a play you use every day, certainly," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It's a rare one." More >
Roark rebounds: Roark endured a tough third, allowing five hard-hit singles, but shook off the rally with ease. He sent down Milwaukee 1-2-3 in the fourth, benefited from ground-ball double plays in the fifth and sixth and retired the Brewers in order in the seventh. Roark struck out six and allowed only two hits outside of the third inning, while walking just one. Wednesday was the righty's fourth consecutive start of at least seven innings, which allowed the Nationals' bullpen a relatively easy afternoon in advance of the team's four-game series in New York.
"Starters are supposed to go out there and go as hard as they can for as long as they can," Roark said. "You can't sit back and be tentative. You've got to go be aggressive and pitch your game. You've got to be a bulldog out there."
Getting hit hard: Including the Nationals' 8-for-21 against him Wednesday in Garza's fifth start off the disabled list, opponents are batting .336 against him (37-for-110), which would rank fourth-worst in Brewers history for a pitcher who appeared exclusively as a starter in at least five games. Only Jamie Navarro (.410 in five starts in 2000), Wily Peralta (.358 in 13 starts this season) and Mike Boddicker (.338 in 10 starts in 1993) were hit at a higher clip. Taylor Jungmann is currently eighth on that list after allowing a .325 average against in five starts this season.
"Today was a rough one," Counsell said. "I think previous games it was a lot of ground balls. … Today, it wasn't ground balls. He's giving up some hits, for sure."
"You come on the road against a first-place team, you want to win two out of three, for sure. That's a good series. But after you tie it up, you feel like you left something out there." -- Counsell, on his club's disappointing end to a winning series
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Including victories in the first two games of the series behind Junior Guerra and Zach Davies, the Brewers are 18-9 in games started by that duo and 19-38 in games started by everybody else.
Brewers: Milwaukee is off Thursday before finishing the first half against its National League Central nemesis, St. Louis, which just swept the Brewers over the weekend at Busch Stadium. Jimmy Nelson, who starts Friday's 7:10 p.m. CT series opener, absorbed one of those losses, and is 0-6 with an 8.49 ERA in seven career appearances against the Cards.
Nationals: The Nats head to Citi Field for a four-game series against the second-place Mets, beginning Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Lucas Giolito will start the first game, making his second Major League appearance after throwing four scoreless against the Mets last week. Giolito is ranked as the top prospect in all of baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com.
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