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Peralta's promise, flaws evident in loss to Nats

Perez's 3-run homer saves Brewers from shutout after starter allows 7 runs
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- The promise of Freddy Peralta is right there to see. Seven more strikeouts in six innings on Wednesday against the Nationals, giving the rookie righty 57 whiffs in his first 43 1/3 big league innings. That'll play in today's swing-and-miss brand of baseball.

But just as evident in a 7-3 loss to the Nationals at Miller Park was that the 22-year-old has work to do. Peralta walked four batters and hit another, and all of those free baserunners scored. He only yielded four hits, but three produced runs, including two that cleared the outfield fence -- most notably Bryce Harper's game-breaking, three-run home run with two outs in the fifth inning. Of the first 22 hits off Peralta, four have been home runs.

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MILWAUKEE -- The promise of Freddy Peralta is right there to see. Seven more strikeouts in six innings on Wednesday against the Nationals, giving the rookie righty 57 whiffs in his first 43 1/3 big league innings. That'll play in today's swing-and-miss brand of baseball.

But just as evident in a 7-3 loss to the Nationals at Miller Park was that the 22-year-old has work to do. Peralta walked four batters and hit another, and all of those free baserunners scored. He only yielded four hits, but three produced runs, including two that cleared the outfield fence -- most notably Bryce Harper's game-breaking, three-run home run with two outs in the fifth inning. Of the first 22 hits off Peralta, four have been home runs.

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"I think he's one of the better guys in baseball right now," said Harper.

That would be most helpful for the Brewers, who have needs on offense as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline nears, but also find their pitching depth stretched near the limit. Left-hander Brent Suter was lost to a season-ending elbow injury this week, Zach Davies had a setback in his recovery from back tightness and top starter Jimmy Nelson remains in rehab mode from shoulder surgery with no return imminent.

In other words, this club needs Peralta to be a fast learner at the Major League level.

"Here, you just have to make the adjustments quicker than you would down there," said Peralta. "But it's the same game. You have to make adjustments. You just have to make them quicker up here."

Video: WSH@MIL: Saladino rips a single, advances on error

It's a young pitcher learning his mechanics, said manager Craig Counsell. Most 22-year-olds do so in the Minor Leagues, where hitters tend to be more forgiving. In the Majors, when they notice a pitcher struggling with his release point, they make him pay.

Take the first inning Wednesday. Nats leadoff man Adam Eaton didn't swing the bat while taking a five-pitch walk. Peralta recovered to retire Anthony Rendon and Harper, and he had Matt Adams in an 0-2 count before hitting him in the foot with a curveball. Juan Soto walked, Daniel Murphy dumped a two-run single over shortstop, Peralta threw a run-scoring wild pitch and just like that the Brewers faced a three-run deficit before coming to bat.

Video: WSH@MIL: Murphy plates a pair to open the scoring

"I think Freddy's struggles have been not finding the strike zone," said Counsell. "We've talked about that before -- when he's throwing strikes, he's pretty good."

Hernan Perez spared the Brewers a shutout when he hit a three-run home run in the ninth inning off Sammy Solis, but Nationals starter Tanner Roark had already carved through eight scoreless innings to put Washington in position to win. The Brewers' loss denied them a three-game sweep and dropped Milwaukee 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the National League Central.

Video: WSH@MIL: Perez drills a 3-run homer to left field

Hitting from behind after Peralta fell into a 3-0 deficit in a 29-pitch first inning, the Brewers' offense went silent against Roark, a good pitcher having a bad season. He leads the NL with 12 losses and entered the day with an 8.31 ERA and 50 hits allowed over 30 1/3 innings in his past six starts.

On Wednesday, Roark breezed through eight innings while allowing three Brewers hits, all singles. He walked one and set a season high with 11 strikeouts. The last time Roark reached double-digit strikeouts was last September at Miller Park, where he has allowed six runs in 28 2/3 career innings.

Video: WSH@MIL: Roark fans 11 over 8 scoreless innings

"We won the series against the Nationals. We'll take that," said Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw. "Going forward, we just have to continue to get more consistent. We have to try to get going again."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Like he's done in other outings that began with a poor first inning, Peralta found his release point and settled into the game. He retired the Nationals in order in the second, third and fourth innings before once again losing his command in the fifth, when eight-hole hitter Matt Wieters led off with a walk. Eaton took another walk with one out, and Harper stepped to the plate with two outs and hit a first-pitch hanging curveball for a three-run homer that doubled the Brewers' deficit to 6-0.

"Solo home runs are going to be part of it. They get every pitcher once in a while and a guy like Freddy, with his stuff, it's going to happen," Counsell said. "But the ones with men on bases because of walks are going to give you problems."

Video: WSH@MIL: Harper crushes a 3-run homer to right field

HE SAID IT
"I don't have an answer for you. I don't. I assume it means our night record is good, but I don't have an answer for that, either." -- Counsell, asked about the 58-46 Brewers being 17-26 in day games

UP NEXT
A huge Brewers road trip that carries the team past the non-waiver Trade Deadline begins Thursday in San Francisco, where left-hander Wade Miley starts for Milwaukee in the opener of a four-game series. The Giants will counter with right-hander Dereck Rodriguez at 9:15 p.m. CT.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Freddy Peralta