WASHINGTON — The Nationals aren’t playing like a first-place team lately, and the Milwaukee Brewers have been delighted to take advantage of the situation.
Hernan Perez hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the sixth inning to back an effective pitching performance by Zach Davies, and the Brewers beat Washington 5-2 on Tuesday night to clinch their second road series win of the season.
Aaron Hill went 3 for 4 with a home run and three RBIs for the Brewers, who will attempt to complete a three-game sweep on Wednesday.
For the second straight day, the NL East-leading Nationals played poorly in the field, stumbled on the bases and gave up pivotal home runs.
“We were flat today, made some mistakes,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We didn’t play very good baseball. Right now they’re taking it to us, versus us taking it to them.”
Milwaukee was 1-8-4 in its first 13 series on the road, defeating only Atlanta in May.
“Feels good to get any win, but especially against a team like this,” Hill said. “We just took advantage of some of our opportunities and our pitching and our bullpen and our closer did a great job for us again.”
Davies (6-4) allowed two runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings. The rookie retired 10 in a row before giving up three straight singles in the seventh.
Washington loaded the bases with two outs for reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, who looked at a third strike from Will Smith to end the threat.
“He’s facing the best hitter in the middle of the lineup on the other team,” manager Craig Counsell said. “Obviously, Harper is one of the best. Doesn’t get in a bigger spot in a baseball game than that.”
Jeremy Jeffress worked the ninth for his 23rd save.
Milwaukee improved to 4-1 against the Nationals with one game left. It’s the Brewers’ first season series win against Washington since 2010.
The highlight of the night for the Nationals was having four players selected to the All-Star Game, including Harper and NL batting leader Daniel Murphy.
Murphy violated two of baseball’s basic rules as the leadoff hitter in the eighth inning. After running slow from the batter’s box on a liner to right, he was thrown out at third base trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
“That was a terrible play,” Murphy acknowledged. “I didn’t hustle out of the box, I didn’t hustle to second and tried to save it by going to third and made the first out at third base down three runs. It changed the whole complexion of the game.”
Perez put Milwaukee up 3-1 in the sixth with a drive off Gio Gonzalez (4-8), who is 1-7 in nine starts since May 18.
Hill added a two-run drive in the seventh off Blake Treinen.
Neither pitcher had a perfect inning until Davies put down the Nationals in order in the fifth. Heading into the sixth, the teams combined for 11 hits and four walks but only two runs.
Washington used an RBI single by Anthony Rendon to take a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Milwaukee tied it in the third with a run-scoring single by Hill.
Brewers: C Jonathan Lucroy (.296, 10 HRs, 39 RBIs) was selected as a reserve for the NL squad.
Nationals: Harper will start in the OF for the NL, and C Wilson Ramos, RHP Stephen Strasburg and 2B Murphy will be reserves. Murphy finished 88 votes behind starter Ben Zobrist — 3,013,407 to 3,013,319.
Brewers: OF Domingo Santana (elbow soreness) “is not nearly close” to coming off the DL, Counsell said.
Nationals: Baker was nursing a cold and acknowledged that “everyone was dragging” during Monday’s 11 a.m. game. It didn’t get any better in this one.
Brewers: RHP Matt Garza (1-1, 3.74 ERA) makes his fifth start of the season in the series finale Wednesday. Although Garza is 1-4 with a 7.01 ERA lifetime against Washington, he beat the Nats 6-5 on June 25.
Nationals: Tanner Roark (7-5, 2.93) is 2-0 lifetime against the Brewers. He pitched seven shutout innings on June 26 in a 3-2 win.
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