MILWAUKEE -- It was evident from the start that it was going to be the good version of Jimmy Nelson on Wednesday night. The 26-year-old Brewers starter, in the midst of a roller-coaster ride of a first full season in the Major Leagues, had allowed at least one first-inning run in seven of his last nine starts, but he carved through the first three Mets batters on this night with only 12 pitches.
There was more to come in the Brewers' 4-1 win at Miller Park. Nelson allowed only two hits, including Curtis Granderson's fourth-inning home run, in eight crisp innings on the way to his best outing in more than a month.
"That's what gets you so excited about him," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
For Nelson, it was good to be excited again. He had set dubious career highs for hits allowed in each of his two previous starts -- first a five-inning, seven-run, 10-hit dud in a loss to the Nationals on June 13, followed by a five-inning, 11-hit, three-run outing in a loss to the Royals in Kansas City.
Six days later against the slumping Mets, losers of seven in a row, Nelson found some relief. Five of his eight innings went 1-2-3, and he faced the minimum three batters in another inning thanks to a double play. He walked one batter and struck out five.
"I know I have the ability to go out there and perform like that, or close to that, every time I go out there," said Nelson, who improved to 4-8 and lowered his ERA to 4.34. "It's not so much the ups and downs, the really highs and really lows. It's just trying to stay on a level plane."
It helped to get through the first inning. In large part because of his propensity for first-inning damage, Nelson's opponent had scored first in all but one of his last nine starts since May 3, when Ron Roenicke was still managing the team.
On Wednesday, Nelson worked with a lead throughout. The first four Brewers batters collected hits against Bartolo Colon for a 2-0 Brewers advantage before Colon recorded an out. Nelson protected it for seven more innings, getting results from a minor mechanical adjustment he'd found since his last start in Kansas City.
"It feels like a different game playing from ahead, letting your pitcher know he's got some room for error," Counsell said. "Let him be on the attack."
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.