Guerra handcuffs Nationals in July 4 victory

Guerra handcuffs Nationals in July 4 victory

WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Junior Guerra proved to be too much for the Nationals, as the Brewers snapped a four-game losing streak with a tight 1-0 win at Nationals Park on Monday. The Brewers have won three out of four games against Washington this season.

Guerra allowed just two hits in 7 1/3 innings, while striking out seven batters. Danny Espinosa and Jayson Werth were the only Nats to record hits against Guerra. How good was the 31-year-old righty? At one point during the game, Guerra retired 12 batters in a row. Guerra hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 15 1/3 innings.

Milwaukee relievers Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress finished the team's second two-hit shutout this season; the other was in Guerra's previous start, a 7-0 win over the Dodgers in which he worked eight scoreless innings. It was also their second 1-0 victory; the other was Guerra's win over the Padres on May 3.

"It feels like [Guerra is] even getting better," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "And it's in the biggest spots [when] he seems to step up even more. It's been fun to watch."

Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer allowed the only run of the game in the fifth inning on a solo homer by Martin Maldonado. Scherzer threw 114 pitches over his six innings, including a combined 43 pitches in the second and third innings.

Maldonado's solo homer

"There have been a lot of long, drawn out at-bats, where guys are fouling pitches off. It just lengthens the at-bat," Scherzer said. "That's something, over the next few days, I'll have talks with everybody [about] and come up with a different game plan to try and combat that."

Escape act: The looming rain in the area enhanced the drama in the sixth inning, when Ryan Braun's first error of the season and a wild pitch helped the Nationals put a pair of runners in scoring position with two outs for All-Star candidate Wilson Ramos. Guerra won the six-pitch battle with his signature offering -- the splitter -- for a critical strikeout that preserved Milwaukee's 1-0 lead.

Guerra escapes a jam

"We only had a couple of opportunities to score. Like I've always said, the advantage goes to the pitcher, if you haven't seen him before," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "[Guerra] is 6-1 now. We flirted with the fence most of the day. He had us fishing for that split-finger, which we knew he had. Until you see it, you really don't know what it's like. You can't take anything away from him. He threw an outstanding game." More >

Bullpen continues to excel: After Scherzer left the game, Washington's bullpen blanked the the Brewers for three innings. Felipe Rivero, Shawn Kelley and Jonathan Papelbon struck out a combined four batters. It was Papelbon's first game since coming off the 15-day disabled list on Monday.

Papelbon fans Perez to end 9th

"I felt pretty strong and my delivery was intact," Papelbon said. "I feel ready to go and continue the season until the last pitch of the season." More >

Power from an unexpected place: The teams were locked in a scoreless tie until the fifth, when Maldonado, the Brewers' .153-hitting backup catcher, connected with a 2-1 fastball from Scherzer and sent it 447 feet to the left-field seats. Maldonado's third home run of the season was the team's longest of 2016, according to Statcast™, besting Chris Carter's 443-foot shot on May 15.

"It felt good, especially when a guy is out there pitching the way [Guerra] was pitching," Maldonado said. "He's really come out and impressed, especially for a guy who was a reliever in the past."

Heart of the order: For the third time this season, Jeffress navigated the heart of the Nationals' lineup to earn a save. He retired Werth and Bryce Harper on groundouts before walking Ramos, bringing Ryan Zimmerman to the plate, representing the winning run. Zimmerman hit a comebacker, which Jeffress knocked down, fielded on the third-base side of the mound and threw to first for the game-ending out. Jeffress has 22 saves in 23 chances.

Jeffress notches the save

"He's [faced] Harper three times in his three saves [against the Nationals], [and] Ramos [three] times in those three saves," Counsell said. "He's earned those, for sure."

The first inning came to an embarrassing end for the Brewers, who became the first team since the 2013 Rangers to bat out of turn. Braun, hitting in his usual three-hole, singled with two outs in the first. But he was erased when Baker alerted the umpires that Jonathan Lucroy was actually listed in that spot. Lucroy was charged with an out, even though he'd never left the on-deck circle, and Braun grounded out leading off the second inning. It was a rare mistake, but not the first time it happened in Brewers history. The Crew last batted out of order in the final game before the 1996 All-Star break.

Must C: Brewers bat out of order

"Before my first at-bat, I looked at the [Brewers'] lineup, I saw Lucroy was before [Braun]. I kind of started laughing a little bit," Nationals center fielder Ben Revere said. "I've seen it before. It's kind of like T-ball. Make sure you see the lineup." More >

Brewers: The Brewers' only night game (7:05 ET start) in the span of five days falls to Zach Davies, who was 5-0 with a 2.64 ERA over 10 starts before struggling in his last outing against the Dodgers. He surrendered six earned runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings in that game.

Nationals: Left-hander Gio Gonzalez is looking for redemption against the Brewers after he had his shortest outing of the season at Miller Park on June 25. In that game, Gonzalez allowed six runs in three innings. Game time is 7:05 p.m. ET

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Bill Ladson has covered the Nationals/Expos for since 2002 and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for since 2001. 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.