Brewers stay close in wild-card race, beat Nats
WASHINGTON The Milwaukee Brewers have little margin for error with a week and a half left in the regular season. On Sunday, a lot of hits kept them close in the playoff scramble.
Jonathan Lucroy had a pair of RBI singles and Milwaukee collected 15 hits to beat the Washington Nationals 6-2.
Rickie Weeks had three hits while Aramis Ramirez had two doubles for Milwaukee, which twice benefited from outfielders losing fly balls in the sun. The Brewers (79-73) remained 2½ games behind St. Louis for the final NL wild-card berth.
"They're all crucial," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "We know that, but you've just got to go out and play. I thought that we played a good game today."
Milwaukee have won 25 of its last 32 games.
Washington leads the NL East by 4½ games over Atlanta. The Nationals' magic number to clinch the division remains at six.
Reliever Brandon Kintzler (3-0) pitched a scoreless sixth inning, striking out Kurt Suzuki with the bases loaded. John Axford recorded the final out with two runners on for his 33rd save.
"It's fun. All these games are fun to watch from back there," Kintzler said of the bullpen. "Then suddenly you're in the ballgame. It's intense. It's something I've been thinking about the whole year, hoping I'd be a part of."
Ryan Mattheus (5-3) allowed three earned runs on four hits.
"I don't think we're fun to face right now, as exciting as we've been," said Corey Hart, who scored twice.
Milwaukee broke a 2-all tie in the seventh. Weeks singled and Ryan Braun grounded into a forceout. Ramirez doubled to right, putting runners on second and third.
After Hart was walked intentionally, Lucroy hit a grounder up the middle. Shortstop Ian Desmond made a diving stop, but couldn't make the play at second and the Brewers led 3-2 with the bases still loaded.
The next batter, Carlos Gomez, hit a fly ball to right that was playable, but Jayson Werth lost it in the sun. Gomez wound with an RBI single and another run scored on Jean Segura's groundout.
"It's a tough sun. There's no doubt about it," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
The Brewers added a run in the eighth on Braun's sacrifice fly.
Milwaukee took a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Braun led off with a fly ball to straightaway center and when Bryce Harper lost the ball in the sun, it dropped in and Braun ended up on second with a double. The next batter, Ramirez, hit a fly that Harper had trouble with, but caught.
"You can't catch what you can't see. Nothing you can do about it. The sun monster got me," Harper said.
"When it's right down the middle of the sun it's kind of hard. So you try to go left or right, try to get below it. Tried to get below the first one, got below the second one and caught it."
Washington starter Chien-Ming Wang, making his first start since June 19, went four innings and gave up two runs on eight hits while striking out two.
Wang was starting because Tuesday's rainout and Wednesday's doubleheader meant Sunday's scheduled starter, Jordan Zimmermann, would have been working on three days' rest. Johnson chose to push Zimmerman back a day.
Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo entered the game having won his last eight decisions. He went five innings, allowing two earned runs and six hits. He walked two and struck out five.
"It was tough all around. They have pretty good hitters," Gallardo said. "They made me work a lot for sure, fouled off some pretty good pitches."
The Brewers have won Gallardo's last 11 starts.
"Yo battled, his command at times was really good, but overall he was a little off today," Roenicke said. "He certainly did a good job of keeping us in the ballgame."
Twice in the first three innings, the Nationals had runners on first and third with one out against Gallardo and didn't score.
NOTES: Gomez jammed his quadriceps Saturday trying to beat out a grounder and was already playing with a bruised foot. He pinch hit in the sixth and stayed in the game. ... The Brewers will start Marco Estrada (4-6) in Monday afternoon's series finale. Jordan Zimmermann (11-8) pitches for Washington. ... Milwaukee's Norichika Aoki saw his hitting streak ended at 12 games. ... Ramirez leads the NL with 49 doubles.