WASHINGTON — The Milwaukee Brewers looked confused in the first inning Monday against Washington. By the end of the day, though, the Nationals were the ones left dazed at the plate.
Junior Guerra outpitched Max Scherzer, Martin Maldonado homered and the Brewers defeated the Nationals 1-0 to snap a four-game losing streak.
“Junior carried the load today,” manager Craig Counsell said after Milwaukee won despite having its first hit taken away as a result of batting out of order in the first inning.
Guerra (6-1) allowed only two hits in 7 1/3 innings, striking out seven and walking two. The 31-year-old rookie threw eight scoreless innings of two-hit ball in his previous start and has won three straight.
“It feels like he’s even getting better,” Counsell said. “In the biggest spots he seems to step up even a little more.”
Maldonado gave the Brewers the lead in the fifth when he sent Scherzer’s 2-1 pitch over the visitors’ bullpen for his third homer.
“Most of the time, solo bombs, they don’t beat you,” said Scherzer, who has allowed a league-high 21 homers. “It happened today.”
Jeremy Jeffress pitched the ninth for his 22nd save.
Scherzer (9-6) threw 114 pitches in six innings. He gave up four hits while striking out seven and walking three.
In three of his past four starts, he hasn’t lasted more than six innings.
“I just haven’t been quite as efficient over the past couple of outings,” Scherzer said. “I’m kind of scratching my head over that.”
One day after hitting six homers in a 12-1 win against the Reds, Washington hitters were stifled by Guerra. During one stretch, he retired 12 straight before Jayson Werth singled with two outs in the sixth. Then, with runners on second and third after a walk and a wild pitch, Guerra struck out Wilson Ramos.
“I was just trying to make quality pitches, keep out of his hot zone and just keep the ball low,” Guerra said through a translator.
Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar made a sliding catch of Ben Revere’s pop fly along the left-field line to end the eighth.
“I’ve always said the advantage goes to the pitcher when you haven’t seen him before,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “We flirted with the fence most of the day and he kind of had us fishing for that split-finger.”
Fans were still settling in for the traditional 11:05 a.m. July 4 game when the Brewers batted out of order in the first. After Ryan Braun’s apparent two-out single, Baker came out to talk to plate umpire Cory Blaser.
Ultimately, Jonathan Lucroy, listed third on the lineup card given to the umpires before the game, was charged with an at-bat and an out.
“I screwed up,” Counsell said. “I was going with some different lineups yesterday … and it was just my mistake.”
Braun, who usually bats third, hit fourth instead Monday and led off the second inning by grounding out.
“Obviously, against Max Scherzer you’re not going to get too many opportunities to have baserunners,” Braun said. “So it was a challenging way to start the day.”
Asked what the hardest part of making an 11:05 a.m. start was, Guerra responded: “When my alarm went off at 8.”
Revere said of the early start: “Of course 11 is early, but it’s one of those deals where you just have to wake yourself up, slap yourself in the face or something.”
Brewers: 1B Chris Carter, who is 1 for 11 with seven strikeouts vs. Scherzer, was not in the starting lineup.
Nationals: RHP Jonathan Papelbon (right rib muscle strain) returned from the 15-day DL and pitched a scoreless ninth. … Baker held “banged-up” 2B Daniel Murphy out of the lineup, but he flied out as pinch hitter in the eighth. … Baker said RHP Joe Ross’ trip to the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation was mainly precautionary, and that if this was late in the season Ross could have pitched.
Brewers: RHP Zach Davis (5-4, 4.22 ERA) allowed six runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings in his last outing, but had gone 5-0 with a 2.64 ERA in his 10 prior starts.
Nationals: LHP Gio Gonzalez (4-7, 4.81 ERA) allowed six runs and six hits in a June 25 loss at Milwaukee. He’s given up three or more earned runs in his last eight starts.
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