MILWAUKEE -- Through 13 starts in his first full Major League season, Jimmy Nelson is actually ahead of where another hard-throwing Brewers pitching product stood two years ago. Even after allowing seven earned runs in Saturday's 7-2 loss to the Nationals, Nelson's ERA was 4.60 and his average against was .245. Through 13 starts in 2013, Wily Peralta's ERA was 6.16, and opposing hitters were batting .309.
That didn't make Nelson's current battles with inconsistency any easier to take.
"It is just unacceptable," Nelson said. "I just have to be more consistent. I have to be better. Not just next time out, but every one of my outings.
"That's the frustrating part to me right now. I'm working hard to get that consistency, but the last couple of weeks it has been up and down. That's the most frustrating thing right now. I'm just going to keep working."
Two starts earlier in St. Louis, Nelson was touched for seven runs (six earned) on seven hits in five innings, including a five-run first. But he bounced back five days later in Pittsburgh to work six scoreless innings with only four hits, three of them singles.
On Saturday against the Nationals, it was another struggle. Nelson surrendered 10 hits and two walks, hit two batters and allowed two home runs, each following a walk that included a close two-strike pitch.
"There are going to be ups and downs to his season," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's learning every time he goes out there. He has to apply the lessons that he learns. I thought they put up some pretty good at-bats against him today. [Anthony] Rondon, [Yunel] Escobar and [Bryce] Harper were really tough on him. They put really good at-bats together on him."
Harper put Nelson in an early hole with a run-scoring single in the first inning. It marked the sixth time in Nelson's last eight starts that he allowed a first-inning run, a habit catcher Jonathan Lucroy attributed to overthrowing early in games.
"I think there's already been a big, huge improvement from Jimmy last year," Lucroy said. "He knows it's a learning experience right now. It's just a matter of working ahead and keeping the ball down."
Asked about that learning experience, and whether he believes his own experience is natural for a pitcher in his first full season, Nelson said, "It doesn't matter how challenging it is. It is my job. It is my job to give us a chance to win every time out, whether I have my best stuff or not. As of late, I haven't done that. That's what bothers me. I'm going to work my hardest to fix that to get us back to where we need to be."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.