MILWAUKEE -- Every preseason prognostication said the Brewers would be out of it by now. Instead, they are about to play meaningful games in September.Jesus Aguilar hit a go-ahead single in the third inning while Jonathan Villar and Zach Davies capped productive months in the Brewers' 6-3 win over the
MILWAUKEE -- Every preseason prognostication said the Brewers would be out of it by now. Instead, they are about to play meaningful games in September.
Jesus Aguilar hit a go-ahead single in the third inning while Jonathan Villar and Zach Davies capped productive months in the Brewers' 6-3 win over the Nationals on Thursday at Miller Park. The victory over tough left-hander Giovany Gonzalez lifted Milwaukee within 2 1/2 games behind the idle Rockies in the race for the National League's second Wild Card while holding steady 3 1/2 games behind the NL Central-leading Cubs.
"It's a huge credit to the guys in there. They kind of scratched and clawed and stayed in this thing," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, nodding toward the clubhouse. "Now, it's ahead of us. It's starting to feel like every day is a big game. But they've earned this, man. They've earned this fun. They've earned the right to say we're playing meaningful games. There's a lot of exciting things looking ahead, for sure."
The Nationals feel the same way, leading the NL East by 15 games despite Thursday's loss, and despite a rare stumble for Gonzalez. He surrendered eight hits and five earned runs, more than he'd allowed on either count in any of his starts since May. Gonzalez prompted a visit from the team trainer during the sixth inning, after he landed awkwardly on a strikeout of Aguilar. However, after the game he insisted he was fine and it was no cause for concern.
Villar and Brewers catcher Stephen Vogt each logged three hits to propel Davies to his 16th win and a tie with the D-backs' Zack Greinke for most in the Majors. Davies held Washington to two runs on six hits over seven innings, and closed the month of August by allowing three earned runs in 26 2/3 innings over his final four starts.
"We're going to continue battling," Davies said. "That's exactly what we've done all year and that's the way we're going to treat September. We've got two options [the division title or a Wild Card], so whatever comes first and however it lines up, we're going to try to make the playoffs that way."
Trea Turner collected three hits, scored twice and drove in a run in his third game off the disabled list for the Nationals.
"It's great to have Trea back," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "He makes things happen. He's an impact player. Maybe this is slowly, but surely, getting all our guys back into shape, and we certainly welcome that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In the clutch: Gonzalez entered the day Major League Baseball's toughest qualifying starter to hit with runners in scoring position, holding opponents 15-for-109 (.138) in those situations. Those numbers grew to 15-for-111 before Aguilar punched his two-run single into left field for a 3-2 Brewers lead, but Milwaukee was denied further chances in the inning when Domingo Santana was out on the basepaths at the end of a play which stood after the Brewers challenged. Still, they had reclaimed the lead.
"It was just bad breaks," Gonzalez said. "We got some good pitches that we made, and they found a way to get that ball down on the ground and through the hole."
First things first: The pace of the Brewers' opening-inning scoring has slowed in the second half, but they still remain dangerous. When Hernan Perez doubled, stole third base and then scampered home on Ryan Braun's foul pop-up to Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, Milwaukee had a 1-0 lead and a 98-60 edge over opponents in first innings.
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"No. Not really. You know, I came here and knew we were young and had a lot of talent. We just came here and played hard. It's a good group of guys and a lot of fun in the clubhouse. You never knew." -- Aguilar, on if he saw the Brewers as contenders when he joined the club just before the start of Spring Training
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Corey Knebel's scoreless ninth gave him 13 saves in August, a Brewers record for any calendar month.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
After the Brewers lost their challenge in the third inning, the Nationals lost theirs in the fifth when Baker asked for a second look at Perez's head-first slide into first base. The Brewers third baseman was called safe on the play, and that ruling stood upon review.
In the eighth, Baker asked for a review when Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman was pulled off the bag on Villar's infield hit. That ruling was confirmed.
Nationals:Tanner Roark will take the mound for the Nationals in Game 2 of this four-game set. He enters this start having given up two earned runs or fewer in his past four outings. First pitch is slated for Friday at 8:10 p.m. ET.
Brewers:Jimmy Nelson already leads the Brewers with 16 quality starts and will aim to make it 17 when he takes the mound on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Nelson held the Nats to two runs on four hits over seven innings of a no-decision at Nationals Park on July 26.
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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.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.