Matt Garza turned in a horrific effort, giving up five runs but getting only one out, as the Washington Nationals (52-43) grabbed a big lead and never looked back, rolling to an 8-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers (54-44).
The Nats absolutely battered Garza (L, 6-7) in the first. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out for Ryan Zimmerman, who singled up the middle for a 2-0 Nats lead. Bryce Harper walked to re-load the bases, and Ian Desmond beat out an infield single that drove in another run. The sacks were still packed with one out, and Wilson Ramos drove a single to center that brought home two more runs and gave the Nationals a five-run advantage.
Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke decided he had seen enough, and made the surprising decision to pull Garza. Luck on balls in play certainly featured prominently for the Nats against him, as only Ramos’s hit was particularly well-struck, but his control was also off, as evidenced by the two walks. Regardless, his final line was uniquely hideous: 0.1 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K.
Justly or not, Garza was removed for Marco Estrada, who retired the next two Nats and ended the threat.
From there, the pace picked up. The first inning took 42 minutes, but the following three only took an hour, even though it included a bit of scoring. Jonathan Lucroy doubled, stole third, and came home in the second when Ramos’s throw sailed into left field. A double from Harper and a Ramos single in the third restored the Nats’ five-run lead, and a Zimmerman single made it 7-1 in the fourth.
While his offense piled up runs to support him, Tanner Roark (W, 9-6) shut down the sixth-best offense in baseball. In seven innings of work, in which he threw an impressive 112 pitches, Roark gave up just one run on six hits and a walk while striking out five. He was stellar as usual, and lowered his ERA to 2.91, second best among Nats starters and just 0.01 back of Doug Fister’s rotation-leading 2.90.
There was a bit of window dressing, as a Zimmerman sacrifice fly added the Nats’ eighth run, and a two-run home run from Ryan Braun tripled Milwaukee’s total, but Ross Detwiler got the last three outs to seal the deal. With Atlanta’s loss, the Nats moved back into a tie for first, and will look to Gio Gonzalez as they attempt to win the series tomorrow.