MILWAUKEE — The Washington Nationals snapped out of their hitting slump just in time and survived a scare when a line drive slammed into ace Max Scherzer’s left calf in the first inning.
Trea Turner’s double to the center field wall scored Wilmer Difo from first base in the eighth, and the Nationals rallied to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 3-2 on Saturday night.
The Brewers took a 2-1 lead into the eighth, when Michael Taylor homered on the first pitch from rookie reliever Josh Hader (1-2). Difo bunted Hader’s second pitch for a single and later scored on Turner’s double.
The Nationals have scored at least 10 runs in 20 games this year, but managed only four in the first 25 innings of the four-game series in Milwaukee.
“Things weren’t going our way most of the night,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said.
Scherzer was lifted after throwing 75 pitches over five innings. A liner from Milwaukee’s Travis Shaw hit him in the first. In Scherzer’s fifth-inning plate appearance, he hit a grounder to shortstop, limped to first and was thrown out easily.
The right-hander pitched the bottom half of the inning before being removed to open the sixth in a 1-1 game. He allowed two hits and two walks while striking out two.
“It tightened up in the second,” Scherzer said. “I could pitch on it but I couldn’t run. I could feel in my mechanics that I was still getting through the ball so I knew I wasn’t in danger of hurting my arm.”
Scherzer said he didn’t expect to miss an extended period of time.
The Brewers fell 4 ½ games behind Chicago in the NL Central, the farthest Milwaukee has been out of first place all season.
Ryan Madson (5-4) pitched a scoreless seventh in his first outing since Aug. 12. He was reinstated from the disabled list on Friday.
Sean Doolittle pitched the ninth for his 14th save in 14 chances with the NL East-leading Nationals since being obtained from Oakland on July 16. With one runner on, Manny Pina hit a fly near the center field wall that Taylor caught to end the game.
“He hit it good. It sounded good,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. “It just wasn’t enough.”
It was just the second time that Hader had appeared in back-to-back games this season. He allowed two runs on three hits and only retired one batter.
“I felt good,” Hader said. “My arm was ready. I just left pitches over the plate and they got hit.”
Milwaukee rookie Brandon Woodruff, recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Friday, allowed one run on two hits and a walk while striking out eight in seven innings. In four starts this year, he has a 1.52 ERA.
One day after being ejected in the fourth inning for arguing a strike call, left fielder Ryan Braun was not in the starting lineup. He popped out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth and is hitting .133 (6 for 45) in his last 14 games.
The Brewers reinstated Jett Bandy from the 10-day DL, giving the team four catchers on the roster. Vogt started Saturday while Bandy, Pina and Andrew Susac were on the bench. “I don’t feel like we are drowning in catchers at all,” Counsell said. “It is what we need right now.”
Nationals: C Matt Wieters was out of the starting lineup for the second consecutive game after taking a foul ball off his knee on Thursday night. He entered the game in the eighth.
Brewers: Pina (hip) went through catching drills before the game and pinch hit in the ninth.
Nationals: RHP Edwin Jackson (5-3) will pitch the finale. He has won three of his last four starts, posting a 2.16 ERA in that span.
Brewers: LHP Brent Suter, who was reinstated from the 10-day DL on Friday, will start Sunday. He threw three scoreless innings on Aug. 30 for Single-A Wisconsin.
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