- Associated Press - Saturday, June 13, 2015

MILWAUKEEMilwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson declined to say whether he believed he had struck out Bryce Harper. Two calls from home plate umpire Tim Timmons went against him. Then the game got away from him, too.

“Whether I thought they were or not doesn’t really matter,” Nelson said. “I still have to execute my pitches after that, and I didn’t.”

Nelson gave up two-run homers to Yunel Escobar and Wilson Ramos and Harper drew a key walk in the fifth inning of Milwaukee’s 7-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Saturday.

Nelson (3-7) struggled against the Nationals’ 3-4-5 hitters, who finished the day 7 of 13 with six RBIs.

Escobar’s homer put Washington ahead for good 3-2 in the third and Ramos’ shot extended the lead to 5-2 in the fifth, but it was Harper’s at-bat before Ramos’ blast that proved costly.

Harper battled back from an 0-2 count with two outs and took two close pitches to earn a walk. Nelson grimaced, thinking each time he had struck out one the NL’s best hitters.

Instead, that set up Ramos, whose home run just beyond the fence in right field landed with a loud thud off the picnic area awning.

“When we get opportunities to bring runners in and we do it, we have an opportunity to win a lot of games,” Ramos said. “I felt more relaxed at the plate. I got a good pitch to hit, and I did.”

Harper finished 3 for 3 with a walk to raise his batting average to .343. He left the game after being hit by a pitch above the right knee in the ninth.

For as good as the Nationals’ middle of the order was, Milwaukee’s struggled against Nationals starter Joe Ross (1-1), who won for the first time in his major league career by scattering seven hits in eight solid innings.

He was especially tough against Milwaukee’s heart of the order by holding Ryan Braun, Adam Lind and Aramis Ramirez to just a single and a walk in 12 plate appearances.

“I thought he was really good against our right-handed hitters,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He ran the ball in on their hands pretty consistently and didn’t leave anything over the plate for them to get to. Then he mixed in that slider.”

The Brewers failed to match a season-high three-game winning streak with Ross on the mound. The 22-year-old struck out eight and settled down after a shaky second inning to win his first road start by retiring 11 of the final 12 batters he faced.

“I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him in the future,” Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “He’s got a pretty good arm.”

ESPINOSA ALL OVER

Danny Espinosa made his first career start at first base for the Nationals.

Espinosa has played third base, left field and now first base this season for the first time in his six-year career after previously only playing middle infield positions.

With Ryan Zimmerman (plantar fasciitis) on the DL, Espinosa looked like a natural making all the necessary plays in the field.

TRAINING ROOM

Nationals: RHP Doug Fister (forearm tightness) threw six scoreless innings in a rehab start with Double-A Harrisburg on Friday night. He’s expected to throw a bullpen session before rejoining the Nationals next week. . Nationals manager Matt Williams says a bullpen session is also RHP Stephen Strasburg’s next step after throwing a simulated game Friday. Strasburg (neck) was placed on the 15-day DL on May 30.

Brewers: CF Carlos Gomez (right hip) was back in the lineup after missing three games. He went 0 for 4. … Brewers LF Gerardo Parra came up hobbled in the second inning after fouling a ball off his right shin just above his protective guard, but stayed in the game.

UP NEXT

Nationals: Max Scherzer (6-5, 2.13 ERA) takes the mound in the series finale. The right-hander has gone at least six innings in every start this year, but has faltered in his last two outings - giving up a combined eight runs in two losses. The slump followed a dominant five-game winning streak where he gave up just seven runs over 36 innings.

Brewers: Milwaukee counters with rookie Taylor Jungmann who will look to build on a strong outing in a win in Tuesday in Pittsburgh. The 2011 first-round draft pick’s breakout performance was a surprise following a slow start to the season in Triple-A Colorado Springs. “You feel good giving him the ball. That’s the big thing,” Counsell said.


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