Instant analysis: Nats 5, Brewers 4

Instant analysis: Nats 5, Brewers 4
July 20, 2014, 5:15 pm
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(Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: With a chance to pick up yet another series victory, the Nationals turned to Gio Gonzalez, who had been dominant over the last few weeks. But when Gonzalez struggled to even get through the fourth inning, Matt Williams instead turned to his bullpen to pull this one off.

Craig Stammen, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard combined to toss 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, making Gonzalez's ragged start a non-issue. And when their teammates rallied to score three runs in the bottom of the fourth to take the lead, Stammen found himself in line to earn the win and the rest of the pen found itself in position to close out the series.

Soriano, though, couldn't hold a 4-3 lead in the ninth, serving up an RBI single to Rickie Weeks that tied the game, his third blown save in 25 tries. That put the onus back on the Nationals lineup, which came through one final time when it really mattered. Jayson Werth doubled into the left-field corner with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and third base coach Bob Henley smartly waved Anthony Rendon around to bring home the winning run.

And so the Nats took two of three from Milwaukee. They've now either won or split eight of their last nine series, and the one loss they took could turn into a split if they beat the Orioles in their Aug. 4 makeup game.

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HITTING HIGHLIGHT: The Nationals took the lead in the bottom of the fourth thanks both to power and heads-up baserunning. Trailing 3-1 when the inning began, they got a 2-run homer from Ryan Zimmerman, who continued his recent penchant for driving the ball to the opposite field, sending this shot over the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center. A couple of surprising figures then gave them the lead. Jose Lobaton doubled off the wall, then took third when Stammen beat out a dribbler to the shortstop. Moments later, Lobaton scurried home on a wild pitch, giving the Nationals the lead and energizing the crowd of 36,373.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: This space is usually reserved for starting pitchers, but let's give some undue love to a member of the bullpen today. After Gonzalez labored his way through 3 1/3 innings, Stammen was summoned to clean up the mess and wound up doing a remarkable job. He retired all eight batters he faced, two via strikeout. Stammen remains the guy who will do whatever is asked of him, whether it's 2 2/3 innings of long relief after a starter got knocked out early, one key inning late in a game or as many extra innings are needed late. He has taken a few losses this season under those circumstances, but today he was exactly what the Nationals needed, bridging the gap between an ineffective starter and the back end of their bullpen.

KEY STAT: Nationals pinch-hitters are now 0 for their last 18 and 1 for their last 30.

UP NEXT: The Nationals embark on a 9-game, 3-city road trip, beginning Monday night at Colorado. It'll be Doug Fister (8-2, 2.90) on the mound against Rockies left-hander Franklin Morales (5-4, 5.26) at 8:40 p.m. EDT.