Nats fall to Brewers in battle of bullpens

Nats fall to Brewers in battle of bullpens

Nats fall to Brewers in battle of bullpens
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals are in the playoffs, but they are struggling to win the National League East title. The Brewers scored four runs in the late innings and defeated the Nationals, 6-2, at Nationals Park on Sunday afternoon.

The Nationals are now 92-60 and 4 1/2 games ahead of the Braves in the NL East standings. Atlanta edged the Phillies, 2-1, on Sunday. The Nats' magic number to win the division remains at six.

"To be able to [at least] split here with a team like the Nationals, obviously their pitching has been doing a great job the whole year," said Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo. "Hitting, they've got a little bit of everything. But we're feeling good right now, we're playing good ball. That's the main thing that we have to keep up for the rest of the year. Hopefully, if we achieve that, we're able to come back here."

After the game, the Nationals gave their jerseys away to fans and manager Davey Johnson was happy to do it.

"It was a good day to give the jersey away. I don't want to wear that one. That one was unlucky," Johnson said. "It was a tough day."

The game was tied at 2 when Milwaukee took the lead against reliever Ryan Mattheus in the seventh inning. One of the runs scored when Carlos Gomez hit a routine fly ball to right fielder Jayson Werth, but Werth lost the ball in the sun and it dropped in front of him for a hit, scoring Aramis Ramirez. It marked the second time the sun played a role in the game. In the fourth, center fielder Bryce Harper lost a ball in the sun.

Werth declined to talk to reporters after the game, but Johnson said it was tough to play the outfield with the sun shining so brightly.

"Just one of those days, I guess," Johnson said. "I was thinking that Harper was having so much trouble, I was thinking about moving Werth over there. I guess it didn't matter."

In the eighth inning, the Brewers had runners on second and third when Norichika Aoki scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Braun.

Chien-Ming Wang started for the Nationals, lasting four innings and allowing two earned runs on eight hits. He is expected to get one more start before his season comes to an end. Wang is not expected to be on the postseason roster and Johnson said he will most likely use a four-man rotation in October.

"He pitched well. He made good pitches in a jam. He deserved better," Johnson said.

The two runs off Wang were scored in the fourth inning, and he had, in large part, the sun to blame for it.

Braun led off and hit what looked like a routine fly ball to center field. But it wasn't routine for Harper, who lost the ball in the sun and let it drop in front of him for a double.

"You can't catch what you can't see. There is nothing you can do about it." Harper said. "The sun monster got me. There is nothing you can do."

Asked if there is anything the team can do about combating the sun, Harper said, "When it's right down the middle of the sun, it's hard. You try to get to your left or right, try to get below it, there is nothing you can do. It happens."

Three batters later, Jonathan Lucroy singled to right field, scoring Braun. Logan Schafer was the next hitter and doubled to right field, scoring Corey Hart, who had singled prior to Lucroy.

Like they have done all season, the Nationals made a comeback to tie the score at 2 against Gallardo in the fifth inning. Ian Desmond scored on a single by pinch-hitter Chad Tracy. Danny Espinosa then scored on a sacrifice fly by Werth to tie the game.

"There wasn't much offense," said Johnson. "We gave them a few runs. It's tough to win."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.