Villar, Davies power Brewers past Nationals
MILWAUKEE — Over the last several weeks, few National League pitchers have performed better than the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez, who posted a 0.79 ERA in five starts leading up to his appearance Thursday night at Milwaukee.
But Zach Davies stole Gonzalez’s spotlight, holding the runaway NL East-leaders to just two runs over seven innings of work, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to a 6-3 victory at Miller Park.
Davies scattered six hits and walked a pair while striking out four. He has held his opponents to just three earned runs over his last 26 2/3 innings of work.
“Zach’s putting together a run where he’s just in control of every game that he’s been out there,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
While Davies was struggling early in the season, the Brewers’ offense bailed him out on multiple occasions.
Thursday, both sides were in a groove; while Davies was befuddling the Nationals’ offense, Milwaukee’s lineup was making Gonzalez work and combined for 13 hits on the night, with three each from Stephen Vogt and Jonathan Villar, including the latter’s 11th home run of the season.
Mired in a slump all season that saw him losing his starting job first to Eric Sogard and then Neil Walker, Villar has started to come on strong down the stretch and has multi-hit efforts in each of his last three games with home runs in his last two.
“It’s a tough season when you struggle and you lose playing time,” Counsell said. “There’s a lot you think about during that time. It hasn’t been easy for him. But as you keep going through this, there’s season left. There (are) big games left. There’s impact to make. That’s why you keep working. The guy who gets hot at the right time can make a big difference.”
Though he struck out seven, Gonzalez never seemed to find a rhtym against the Brewers. He was charged with five runs on eight hits and three walks in six innings of work.
“They found a way to get that ball down on the ground and through the hole,” Gonzalez said. That was today’s outcome.”
A stroke of luck let Milwaukee take an early lead.
Hernan Perez reached on a two-out double, stole third then took a chance when Ryan Braun popped out to foul territory down the first-base line.
Daniel Murphy made a perfect throw with plenty of time to catch Perez, but catcher Matt Wieters dropped the ball and the Brewers went up 1-0.
The Nationals returned the favor in the third, taking advantage of two dropped balls by Brewers defenders and went ahead, 2-1, on an RBI double by Turner and a run-scoring groundout by Jayson Werth.
Gonzalez ran into trouble in the bottom of the inning, allowing a leadoff single to Davies, who moved to second on a poorly fielded bunt single by Villar.
Domingo Santana drew a walk to load the bases and Jesus Aguilar made Gonzalez pay, ripping a single into left that scored a pair of runs. But a quick cutoff by Anthony Redon caught Santana trying to get back to second and Gonzalez escaped the inning.
Davies opened the fifth with a walk and Villar followed, sending an 0-1 curveball to center for his 11th homer of the season, giving Milwaukee a 5-2 lead.
“Gio was good except for the leadoff walk to the pitcher which started the inning and the base hit by pitcher to start the inning,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “Those were the innings they scored crooked runs in. Other than that, he was good.”
Turner led off the eighth with a triple and scored on Werth’s groundout to make it a 5-3 game.
Stephen Vogt’s third hit of the night drove in an insurance run for the Brewers in the eighth inning and Corey Knebel worked a perfect ninth for his 31st save.
NOTES: Brewers manager Craig Counsell announced that struggling RHP Matt Garza would not make his next scheduled start Sunday against the Nationals but has not named a replacement yet. ... Nationals manager Dusty Baker said all of his starters would remain on regular rest through their next turns in the rotation. Baker originally planned to use an extra starter Saturday and employ a six-man rotation to give the regular starters an extra day of rest. ... The Brewers were again without 3B Travis Shaw (sore foot) and C Manny Pina (hip). Counsell said Shaw could return as early as Friday while Pina will undergo tests on his hip.