Brewers' skid hits seven with loss to Nationals

Brewers' skid hits seven with loss to Nationals

Brewers' skid hits seven with loss to Nationals
MILWAUKEE -- Thursday wasn't all bad for the Brewers. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy returned from a two-month stint on the disabled list. Reliever Jim Henderson threw fewer pitches in his first Major League inning -- nine -- than he toiled years in the Minor Leagues -- 10 -- to get there. Carlos Gomez homered for the third time in four games.

And the beleaguered Brewers bullpen didn't blow a lead.

They never had a chance.

A tough day for Brew City baseball fans began with Zack Greinke officially on the trading block and ended with another Brewers loss, this time an 8-2 thumping by the Nationals. It was Milwaukee's seventh consecutive defeat.

"We just have to keep moving forward," said Yovani Gallardo after losing his second straight start. "That's really all I can say."

There was little else to say after the Brewers fell a season-worst 10 games under .500 and 14 games behind the National League Central-leading Reds. Their slide in the standings means Greinke could be playing for someone else by Sunday, his next scheduled start, or Tuesday, baseball's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

If he's traded before Sunday, a possible replacement is 23-year-old Tyler Thornburg, but Thornburg abruptly exited in his second inning of relief work on Thursday night after a drop in velocity prompted a visit from assistant athletic trainer Dave Yeager. Thornburg says he simply has a tired arm.

The Brewers can only hope that's the case. They can ill afford more bad news.

"It's hard to be positive sometimes, especially when you're losing, on the end of a big, long losing streak," Lucroy said. "But I'm forever optimistic. I believe in the best possible outcome. If anything from this situation we're in now, we need to learn from it."

Gallardo lasted only five innings and allowed seven runs on seven hits, including a bases-loaded triple by Steve Lombardozzi in the second inning that came after Gallardo (8-8) walked the opposing pitcher with two outs. That hit capped a four-run inning and allowed Washington starter Edwin Jackson to enjoy a win that evened his record at 6-6.

"When you have an offensive explosion like we had, it definitely motivates you to come out and want to pump the strike zone and let the defense play behind you," Jackson said.

Jackson scattered eight hits in seven scoreless innings, stranding nine runners and holding the Brewers to 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Jackson scored a pair of runs himself.

"I've had trouble with that guy for two years now," said Lucroy, who accounted for three of the Brewers' clutch at-bats against Jackson.

Lucroy lined out to deep right field for the second out of the second inning, flied out to center field to end the fourth and reached on an infield single in the sixth that pushed Rickie Weeks to third base but no further.

"[Jackson] gave us a heck of a time tonight," Lucroy said. "You have to give a lot of credit to that guy. He made some pretty good pitches. He was pretty nasty."

Gallardo surrendered four runs in the second inning and three in the fifth. The Nationals' second-inning rally included an Adam LaRoche home run, a pair of two-out walks and a two-strike single that scooted through the infield only because second baseman Weeks was covering the bag on a hit-and-run play.

That fortuitous hit belonged to No. 8 hitter Jesus Flores. Jackson followed with a walk to load the bases before Lombardozzi emptied them with his triple -- another two-strike hit -- to the right-field corner.

"It just seemed like everything didn't go the way we wanted to in that inning," Gallardo said. "Walks are hurting us again," said manager Ron Roenicke, whose club walked 17 batters while being swept in Philadelphia this week and walked three more batters Thursday, all of whom scored. "We have to stay away from those walks. There's some times you don't mind pitching around a guy, but we can't walk people like we're doing."

LaRoche and Michael Morse drove in two runs apiece for the Nationals, who tied for the Major Leagues' best record at 59-39. They are the first Washington D.C.-based team to be 20 games over .500 since the 1945 Senators.

The Nationals had dropped eight straight games and 15 of their last 17 at Miller Park before winning on Thursday in the opener of a four-game series. They would have shut out the Brewers if not for Gomez's two-run homer in the eighth.

"I know we still played hard, but sometimes you get behind right away and it takes a little bit away from that good feeling going into the game," Roenicke said.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.