MILWAUKEE -- Despite more injuries and a brutal travel delay, manager Dave Martinez blamed the Nationals' loss on sloppy defense.
The Nationals committed four errors, including an errant pick-off attempt and catcher's interference, along with a couple other misplayed balls and two wild pitches, en route to a 5-3 loss to the Brewers on Monday night at Miller Park.
"We've got to start playing defense," Martinez said. "I say it all the time. The hitting comes and goes, but we've go to catch the ball. We've got to catch the ball."
Already beset with injuries, catcher Yan Gomes left in the third inning with a forearm contusion after being hit by pitch, and left fielder Andrew Stevenson, recalled Saturday from Triple-A Fresno, left in the fourth with back spasms. The Nationals also had a lengthy travel delay due to a mechanical issue with their plane, which had the team arriving in Milwaukee at midday Monday instead of Sunday night.
Max Scherzer held the Brewers to one earned run on six hits in six innings, striking out 10. Scherzer worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth, but the Brewers quickly took advantage of suspect defense behind the bullpen.
“Look, everybody makes mistakes. I make mistakes,” Scherzer said. “I hung sliders tonight, and they hit them. You can’t point the finger. It’s just part of the game. We’re humans. You’ve just got to turn the page and move on, focus on what you can control.”
Adam Eaton put Washington in front by a run with a solo homer in the seventh, but the Brewers capitalized on suspect defense for two runs in the bottom half.
Ben Gamel opened the bottom half with an infield single off Dan Jennings that second baseman Brian Dozier couldn't handle. Gamel advanced on a wild pitch, then moved to third when Christian Yelich legged out an infield hit to third. Yasmani Grandal followed with an RBI single to right to tie the game at 3. Mike Moustakas then hit a dribbler in front of the plate, that eluded catcher Kurt Suzuki, loading the bases on the error.
Jesus Aguilar's sacrifice fly to right put the Brewers up, 4-3. Milwaukee added on in the eighth on a double by Orlando Arcia and RBI single by Gamel.
"Just couldn't make plays," Martinez said. "Jennings came in, threw a ground ball, threw some really good pitches, we just couldn't make plays. We talk it about it almost every day. When you give teams 31 outs a game, 32 outs a game, it's tough to win. It is. We've got to play better defense. I've said that all along."
Howie Kendrick staked the Nationals to a 2-0 lead in the first with his fifth homer, a two-run shot to left off Jhoulys Chacin. Gomes was then hit by a pitch. He remained in the game, catching two innings before Suzuki pinch-hit for him in the third.
The Brewers tied it with a run in the first on an RBI single by Moustakas that ticked off the top of the glove of shortstop Carter Kieboom, and an unearned run in the second when Aguilar scored from third on an error by Kieboom on Gamel's grounder.
Even with a fluctuating lineup due to injuries, Martinez said they still have to make plays.
"These guys get their reps in. They've done it probably a million times," Martinez said. "I mean they've done it since they were 5 years old. No difference. Like I said, 'ball's hit to you, just get an out. We're not asking you to do anything superb, just get an out. We just need outs."'
The Nationals have won just one of Scherzer's eight starts.
"It's frustrating," Martinez said. "He's kept us in the ballgame every game. I know our offense will turn on again, but he pitched good enough today to win that game. We gave up four runs we shouldn't have given up. But he pitched well. He settled down a little bit and got some big outs. Typical of Max. I know we didn't score a lot of runs, but a game we should have won."