ST. PETERSBURG -- The Brewers' offense remained stuck in neutral Sunday, wasting another Jimmy Nelson pitching gem.
Nelson continued Milwaukee's run of terrific pitching by working eight innings of one-run ball against the Rays at Tropicana Field, before Steven Souza Jr.'s walk-off homer against Jacob Barnes in the ninth sealed the Brewers' 2-1 loss. It marked the ninth time in 10 games that the Brewers scored three or fewer runs.
"There's going to be days where I give up runs and they come back and pick me up and score more," Nelson said. "That's how the game works. Different parts of the team pick it up."
Lately, Brewers pitchers have been carrying the load. In nine games since a blowout loss in Washington D.C., on July 28, Milwaukee's pitchers lead the Majors with a 1.87 ERA -- nearly a run better than the runner-up Dodgers in that span. Brewers starters have a 1.95 ERA in those games, also best in the big leagues.
Nelson kept it going Sunday by allowing one run on six hits in eight innings. He walked two, struck out nine and lowered his ERA to 2.71 over his last 18 starts since the beginning of May.
The bats, however, have gone quiet. The Brewers are last of 30 Major League teams with a .109 average (6-for-55) with runners in scoring position in those nine games, including an 0-for-8 effort against Chris Archer and three Rays relievers on Sunday.
"Their guys pitched well, too, so I wouldn't say it's a wasted start," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It's a great start. He pitched really well. These guys have been pitching in situations where they've got no room for error, and he executed it beautifully. We had a couple of opportunities, and like a lot of this streak, we're missing the opportunities. We're not getting the big hit."
Nelson took the mound with the Brewers coming off consecutive shutout victories behind rookie Brandon Woodruff and surging Zach Davies in the first two games of the series. The Rays scored their first run of the series and snapped a 23-innings scoreless streak for Brewers pitchers by manufacturing a lone run in the second inning against Nelson, who surrendered successive singles before issuing the first of his two walks.
Wilson Ramos followed with a double-play bounceout to give the Ray a 1-0 lead. The Brewers answered with Orlando Arcia's sixth-inning solo home run, but otherwise could not score.
"Our pitching staff is doing a great job. We've got to give them some more room for error," Counsell said. "You can't expect them to be absolutely perfect. We've got to find a way to put some runs on the board and give them a little bit of room for error."
The Brewers' 23-innings scoreless streak was the longest for Milwaukee pitchers since they went 36 innings without allowing a run in July 2013.
"Unfortunately, the offense didn't come through again today," third baseman Travis Shaw said. "Jimmy pitched awesome. One run over eight innings, you expect to have the lead going into the ninth. Just another bad day for our offense."