WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper is starting to find his swing again.
Harper homered and went 3 for 4 for his first multi-hit game since late April, but the Nationals fell 4-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night despite belting out 11 hits.
“They just scored more,” Harper said. “I think we swung the bat pretty dang good.”
Stephen Strasburg (7-7) allowed four runs on seven hits for the Nationals, which fell a game behind Atlanta in the NL East.
He struck out nine in seven innings, but allowed early solo home runs to Scooter Gennett and Khris Davis and a two-run, two-out single to Aramis Ramirez.
“It can always be a better pitch” Strasburg said of Ramirez’s bloop hit. “I mean, he’s a pretty good hitter, and you want to get weak contact, so I’ve just got to do a better job of making him hit it on the ground next time.”
Denard Span had three singles for Washington.
Kyle Lohse (10-4) picked up his first win since June 22 for the NL Central leading Brewers. He allowed 10 hits, but just a run over seven innings as Washington went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura was back in the lineup, a week after the sudden death of his 9-month-old son, and went 1 for 4. He received a warm ovation from the Nationals Park crowd prior to his first at-bat.
Harper, who missed all of May and most of June with a torn left thumb ligament, debuted a slightly altered batting stance Friday.
“I think he’s stood up just a touch more to get on top of the baseball, lowered his hands a little bit, probably a little more direct to the ball,” said Nationals manager Matt Williams of Harper. “Certainly the homer gives him some confidence, and the other two hits are taking what the opposition is giving him, so that’s a good sign.”
Going into the All-Star break, Harper had batted just .150 (6 for 40) with a homer and a double in 12 games since returning from his injury on June 30.
After singling in the second and sixth innings of Lohse, Harper homered off Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez, who then retired the side for his 28th save.
Friday marked his first multi-hit game since an 11-1 win over the San Diego Padres on April 25th, the evening he suffered the injury during a headfirst slide into third.
“I feel good. I’m not sure if it’s going to go well or not,” Harper said. “I’m just trying to go out there and have some fun and put the bat on the ball and hopefully keep winning ballgames.”
Washington had won 10 of 14 coming in while the Brewers had dropped 11 of 13, but it was Milwaukee that started fast.
The Brewers got solo homers from Gennett in the first inning and Davis in the second.
In the fourth, Strasburg issued a two-out walk to Gennett and Ryan Braun doubled him to third. Ramirez then dumped in a single to right, scoring both runners to make it 4-0.
“They had a couple solo homers, but that’s not the one that got us,” Williams said. “The one that got us, he had a good pitch on Ramirez, and he hit a ball into right field with guys on second and third. If he gets that out, it’s a different game.”
Strasburg, who allowed seven runs in 4 2-3 innings June 25 in Milwaukee, had given up just five earned runs in 20 1-3 innings in his three starts since.
The Nationals pulled to within 4-1 in the fourth when Ryan Zimmerman led off with a double and scored on a double by Ian Desmond.
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