WASHINGTON -- This three-game set between the Nationals and Brewers could serve as a potential October preview, as the two teams are slated to match up in the postseason if they can hold their respective playoff positions.Milwaukee's offense had struggled following the All-Star break, but it broke out Tuesday night
WASHINGTON -- This three-game set between the Nationals and Brewers could serve as a potential October preview, as the two teams are slated to match up in the postseason if they can hold their respective playoff positions.
Milwaukee's offense had struggled following the All-Star break, but it broke out Tuesday night at Nationals Park for three homers in an 8-0 victory over Washington. Of course, the Brewers have had no trouble scoring runs when right-hander Zach Davies has been on the mound this season, as he is second among qualified starters in run support. Davies hardly needed it in this outing, as he spun a season-high 7 2/3 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts.
"At this time for us, it's time to get going," Davies said. "It's time for us to separate ourselves and get back to the way we were playing in the first half. Especially making a statement against a good team like [the Nationals], it's to say that we're here to stay."
With their win, the Brewers retained their half-game lead over the Cubs in the National League Central. With his best outing of the season, Davies lowered his ERA over his past six starts to 2.54.
"He's always been tough," Nationals slugger Bryce Harper said about his former travel ball teammate. "Throwing that sinker, throwing that changeup, mixing it in in good counts. Sometimes you just go out there and try to get to him, and sometimes you gotta tip your cap. He did his job tonight."
Travis Shaw, Eric Thames and Manny Pina all homered for the Brewers. Milwaukee also reportedly added reinforcement to its bullpen, as it agreed to a deal to acquire right-hander Anthony Swarzak from the White Sox, though the club has not confirmed.
After a strong first start with the Nationals last week, right-hander Edwin Jackson labored through five innings and surrendered seven runs (three earned). Washington's offense -- which is without Trea Turner, Jayson Werth and Michael Taylor -- struggled to put together any significant rally against Davies, as it was held to five hits and shut out for just the third time this season.
"As a team right now, we're swinging the bat really well," Harper said. "There are some days you just don't win. It's part of the game. You try to go out there and do the best you can and get some runs up there on the board. Had a great road trip, and came home today and got beat."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Shaw takes advantage: The Brewers put up four unearned runs in the fourth inning, thanks to a pair of defensive miscues by the Nationals. With a runner on first, Ryan Zimmerman made an errant throw on a sac bunt from Davies that put runners at the corners with one out. After Eric Sogard popped out, Ryan Braun hit a grounder toward second base, which Daniel Murphy could not convert into an out thanks largely to Davies' hustle, and it allowed a run to score. With the inning extended, Shaw turned a high fastball from Jackson into a three-run blast. Shaw boosted his RBI total to 73, surpassing his career high of 71 from last season.
"Zach pitched really well … but the baserunning play he made was the play of the game for me," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We get a run there, we keep the inning going. You don't see that very often from a pitcher, and that's the play of the game for me. Without a doubt, the play of the game. There's not a lot of pitchers who can do that."
Back-to-back blasts: With their bullpen a bit depleted after picking up seven innings on Sunday, the Nationals needed everything they could get from Jackson even after he showed he did not have his best stuff. The Brewers pounced to begin the fifth inning, as Thames and Pina launched back-to-back home runs. Jackson completed five innings for Washington, but it was a drastic difference from his first time out.
"I think it was just I need to do a better job of making adjustments," Jackson said. "Do a better job of attacking the strike zone as I did the first game, put pressure on the batters instead of working behind the 8-ball, which can come back to hurt you."
This was Thames' first start of the year batting below the No. 3 spot, which Counsell said was in an effort to break up the lefties, because Washington carries four southpaw relievers. But he also conceded that Thames hasn't been the same since his hot April; he entered Tuesday slashing .216/.331/.436 since May 1.
"My big focus today was having five straight at-bats, every single pitch, free my mind. I wasn't assuming a certain pitch and location. I wasn't waving at stuff. I wasn't mad at a foul ball. It was, 'Free your mind and let your body work.' … Trust me, I was all smiles. That was my goal for the day. It's going to be a day-to-day battle." -- Thames, who hit his team-best 24th home run and hit two other balls hard
"I can't believe his ERA is what it is, because every time I've seen him he's been good." -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker, on Davies
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Harper doubled in the eighth inning to extend his career-high hitting streak to 17 games.
Brewers:Jimmy Nelson hopes the Brewers saved some runs for his 6:05 p.m. CT start on Wednesday. The right-hander leads the team with 11 quality starts, and he is 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA in his past 15 starts.
Nationals: Left-hander Giovany Gonzalez will take the mound for the second game of this three-game set at 7:05 p.m. ET. He is trying to bounce back after one of his worst outings of an otherwise stellar year, when he gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Angels.
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Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.
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.