No Stephen Strasburg? No problem for the Nationals, who pitched Tanner Roark instead and watched the right-hander carve through seven innings of a 3-2 win over the Brewers on Sunday at Miller Park, snapping Washington's seven-game losing streak.
"I told [manager Dusty Baker] I would do it. I felt good enough to go out there and do it," Roark said. "We had the off-day. I was on five days' rest anyway. I felt good."
Jose Lobaton hit a solo home run leading off the seventh inning and Clint Robinson added a two-run shot in the eighth to back Roark, who scattered seven hits in seven innings, walked one batter and struck out seven. He pitched on regular rest in place of Strasburg, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a recurrence of his upper back strain.
The Brewers were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position during Roark's final four innings and left nine men on base in the game. They were unable to back starter Jimmy Nelson, who found no relief for his recent command issues. Nelson retired Washington's first eight hitters on 31 pitches, then needed another 60 pitches for seven more outs. He issued five walks in that latter stretch, including a pair to Roark, but exited the game in a scoreless tie.
"It's really close," said Nelson, who has not completed six innings since a 7 1/3-inning outing on May 29. "It's not like there's huge mechanical fixes to be made or anything like that, so it's a matter of just executing my pitches, really."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Harrowing ninth: The Brewers made it interesting in the ninth against Nationals closerShawn Kelley, pulling to within a run on Martin Maldonado's pinch-hit home run with two outs, then putting the tying runner on third base when Nationals left fielder Jayson Werthlost Jonathan Villar's fly ball in the sun. But Scooter Gennett flied out to Werth in shallow left to end the game, dropping the Brewers to 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
"I never saw it, either," Villar said. "When I hit the ball, I just ran. I felt good, because I knew I hit it good. But I didn't know what was going on out there." More >
Nats' 100th HR a big one: Lobaton gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead when he homered in the top of the seventh off right-hander Jacob Barnes. The Nationals reached the century mark in 76 games, the fastest in team history.
"I'm happy for that. I feel the team is really doing well," Lobaton said. "I really don't care about home runs. I care more about wins. It was a really good win today."
Roark submits shutdown effort: The Brewers came close to scoring in the fourth and seventh innings, but Roark managed to shut them down. In the fourth, when Milwaukee had runners on second and third with one out, Roark struck out Chris Carter and Nieuwenhuis to end the threat. Three innings later, Aaron Hill was on third base with one out, but Alex Presley struck out and Villar grounded out to second baseman Daniel Murphy.
"Tanner was outstanding. We decided [after seven innings] he had enough. He wasn't scheduled to pitch today," Baker said. "He had thrown 38 pitches in the bullpen yesterday. That's why we took him out of the game. His last two starts on this road trip were outstanding."
Grand escape: Nelson issued five walks in his fifth straight start of fewer than six innings. His final batter was the reigning National League MVP, Bryce Harper, who hit with the bases loaded in the fifth after Nelson issued successive two-out walks to Roark, Ben Revere and Werth. Nelson fell behind Harper with ball one, but fought back into the at-bat to win the battle on a long fly ball that backed center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis all the way to the wall. When Nieuwenhuis squeezed the inning-ending out, it eliciting an audible sigh from 30,215 fans at Miller Park.
QUOTABLE "This isn't a break, as far as I'm concerned.This guy is pretty good. He's a challenge. He's under the radar because [Max] Scherzer and Strasburg are big names, but this guy is a good starting pitcher." -- Brewers manager Craig Counsell, on facing Roark instead of Strasburg
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: The Nationals return to Nationals Park to play an important three-game series against the Mets starting Monday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Joe Ross will get the start for Washington. In his last start, Ross pitched 6 1/3 innings in a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers.
Brewers: The well-rested Brewers take another day off Monday (their third in eight days) before hosting the Dodgers at Miller Park beginning Tuesday at 7:10 CT behind Chase Anderson. It will be Anderson's first start in 10 days, having been skipped a turn amid the flurry of off-days.