MILWAUKEE -- Max Scherzer was far from perfect in his return to Miller Park, burned by early walks and late home runs as the Brewers powered their way to a 5-3 win over Scherzer's slumping Nationals on Friday, pushing ahead on Kirk Nieuwenhuis' sixth-inning homer.
Washington's losing streak reached six behind Scherzer, the ace right-hander who settled for a one-hit shutout at Miller Park last June after carrying a perfect game into the seventh. Friday's outing was decidedly different. Scherzer walked three batters ahead of Aaron Hill's two-run single in the first, grooved a slider for Keon Broxton's first Major League home run in the fifth, and picked a bad time to take a little off a fastball to Nieuwenhuis, who hit it 427 feet (per Statcast™) for his go-ahead, two-run home run.
"That guy's eaten my lunch more than a few times," said Nieuwenhuis, who was 0-for-7 with seven strikeouts against Scherzer before that swing. "It was nice to get one off him, finally."
Said Scherzer: "I had a 3-2 lead and I didn't hold the lead. That's what I pride myself on. When you go out there, you have those shutdown innings. When you have a 3-2 lead going into the fifth, that's when you step up and help the ball club out, especially right now when we have been scuffling a bit. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do that tonight. That's why I'm frustrated."
Brewers starter Zach Davies took a no-decision after a workmanlike outing in which he matched his career high with nine strikeouts, but was out of the game after allowing three runs in five innings on 104 pitches. Carlos Torres, Will Smith, Tyler Thornburg and Jeremy Jeffress each worked a scoreless inning of relief, with Thornburg stranding the bases loaded in the eighth inning and Jeffress striking out Wilson Ramos -- who had four hits -- with two aboard to end the ninth. Jeffress earned his 20th save in his first outing off a weeklong absence for an eye infection.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Save that baseball: Broxton's first home run came in a big spot against a big pitcher. After scuffling through the first, Scherzer held the Brewers scoreless over the next three frames, including a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 fourth, but paid a heavy price for a misplaced slider leading off the fifth. Broxton, batting in place of Davies, hit it into Milwaukee's bullpen for a 3-3 tie and the second homer for a Brewers pinch-hitter this season.
"I've always watched [Scherzer] pitch and wondered how guys get hits off him," Broxton said. "To come in and put some good wood on the ball is awesome. It feels amazing." More >
Nats' offense continues to struggle: The bottom four of the Nats' order -- Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Danny Espinosa and Scherzer -- struck out 10 times. All three runs came in the third, thanks to hits by Daniel Murphy and Ramos. After that inning, the Nationals collected just four more hits and left the bases loaded in the eighth against Thornburg. The Nationals stranded 11 in the game.
"I sound like a broken record," Washington manager Dusty Baker said. "But we had runners out there. Tonight, they were striking us out. We have to get better early in the count. We have to look for that fastball because that's what they are throwing to us early. They were dotting it tonight. Boy, that was tough, especially after the night Ramos and Murphy had." More >
Patience pays off: Scherzer couldn't find the strike zone in the first, loading the bases with consecutive one-out walks to Scooter Gennett, Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Carter. Scherzer struck out Nieuwenhuis, then worked to a 1-2 count against Hill before Hill hit a 97-mph fastball for a two-run single. It was Scherzer's 35th pitch, and represented the first ball put in play by the Brewers.
"I think offensively we've been pretty good at making a guy work in the first inning," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "There was one big hit, but there was a bunch of good at-bats that got us there."
Ramos stays hot: Ramos continues to show that he belongs on the All-Star team, going 4-for-5 and raising his batting average to .341. He gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead in the third when he singled to center, scoring Murphy. More >
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With Scherzer's 10 strikeouts and Davies' nine, it was only the 10th time in the Majors this season that both starting pitchers fanned at least nine. The Nationals were involved in one of those games May 17, with Scherzer again picking up the loss as he and the Mets' Noah Syndergaard each punched out 10.
WHAT'S NEXT Nationals: After getting off to a strong start, lefty Gio Gonzalez has struggled in June. He is 0-3 with a 5.84 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in four starts this month. His ERA has increased from 1.86 on May 18 to 4.25. Game time is 4:10 p.m. ET.
Brewers:Ryan Braun should be back in the lineup after getting Friday off when the Brewers and Nationals return to action at Miller Park on Saturday at 3:10 p.m. CT. Braun is coming off a road trip on which he went 12-for-35 (.343). Righty Matt Garza will make the start.