Normally, a return home after a long road trip means good things for a team.
For the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night, it was simply frustration.
The offense did next to nothing against left-hander Patrick Corbin, which left the pitching staff no margin for error, and the result was an ugly 4-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at American Family Field.
Avisaíl García’s seventh-inning home run accounted for the lone tally against a much less talented Nationals team than the one the Brewers swept in Washington in late May, before stars Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber were traded away.
Milwaukee managed only three hits in all, losing its second straight game hours after the big news that Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had become a member of the team’s ownership group.
Meanwhile the Cincinnati Reds won their second straight, trimming the Brewers’ lead in the NL Central to 7 ½ games.
“It’s just one of those weird anomalies. We play so well on the road but don’t seem to play as well at home, or have those consistent games where all three facets click,” said Brewers starter Brett Anderson. “But we’re still a good ball club. We’ll get some rest, come out and play a good game tomorrow.”
Having gone 8-2 on their three-city trip and facing a pitcher in Corbin who entered 6-12 with a 6.04 earned run average, the Brewers figured to be in a good spot to get their six-game homestand off on the right foot.
But Corbin had other ideas, striking out six while allowing only one hit – a Lorenzo Cain double – over four innings against a Milwaukee lineup that was sans both Kolten Wong and Christian Yelich.
A leadoff single by Luis Urías in the fifth was followed by a rocket shot off the bat of Rowdy Tellez, but he hit it right at centerfielder Victor Robles and Urías was ultimately left stranded.
Willy Adames encapsulated the frustration of the offense as a whole by slamming his helmet to the ground in disgust after grounding out to close the sixth inning.
“I think compared to when we faced him in May in Washington, the velocity is significantly up,” manager Craig Counsell said. “His velocity’s kind of been trending up, but the first inning was 94-95, some 96s. He was in the zone with his fastball enough that we didn’t get good swings on it, I didn’t think.”
Adding to the night’s woes was the mid-game exit of Tyrone Taylor, who strained his right oblique badly enough that Counsell said afterward the outfielder was headed for the injured list.
“He fits really well with his right-handedness and the depth he provides and how he’s played,” he said. “He’s played very, very well. We’re going to miss him. But hopefully he’s able to just miss a little bit of time here and then get back to us.”
Anderson (4-7) was sharp early, recording six outs via ground balls as a scoreless game moved to the fourth.
But it was leading into the fourth that the game briefly ground to a halt as TV host Stephen Colbert addressed the crowd in some pre-planned schtick, leaving Anderson and other Brewers players visibly unhappy as they waited for him to wrap up.
Washington collected a pair of singles against Anderson, who then got to within an out of stranding them before Lane Thomas – hitting .135 with one RBI with the Nationals coming in – tripled to right to plate both runners.
“Along with (Brent) Suter, we’re probably the two wrong guys to have on the mound in that situation just because of the pace I like to work,” Anderson said. “I’m still not a fan. I don’t know if Milwaukee has changed its tune, but I’m probably less of a fan of Stephen than I was before. Kind of a bad omen.
“Stuff like that happens. If you pitch in the playoffs or pitch in big games, you’re going to have ceremonies like that so you just have to take it in stride. It was kind of a weird coincidence that I gave up two in that inning.
“But with the pace that I like to work at, I’d rather have him not do that.”
A pair of walks in the sixth ended Anderson’s night at 82 pitches. Hunter Strickland took over and allowed a two-out RBI single to Riley Adams that upped the Nationals’ lead to 3-0.
Milwaukee finally got on the board in the seventh with García’s one-out homer into the Washington bullpen chasing Corbin, whose start was his best since mid-June after allowing three hits, the one run and no walks with seven strikeouts.
Eduardo Escobar worked Corbin for 11 pitches before flying out deep to center immediately preceding No. 24 for García.
“It’s always your job as the hitter to take a piece of the pitcher as well as you can,” said Counsell. “I think when you go through a battle like that as a pitcher, it’s hard to lock into that next at-bat because you’re almost taking a deep breath that you won a really tough battle.
“Avi wisely jumped on a first pitch and made him pay.”
Mason Thompson finished the inning for Corbin, then exited after walking Cain to open the bottom of the eighth.
That brought Yelich off the bench with a chance to tie the game with one swing of the bat, but Andres Machado needed only one pitch to get him to ground into a tailor-made 6-3 double play.
The Nationals tacked on a final run in the ninth on a bases-loaded walk issued by Jake Cousins. It was the first run allowed by the right-hander in 18 major-league appearances.
Saturday: Nationals at Brewers, 3:10 p.m. Milwaukee LHP Eric Lauer (4-4, 3.44) vs. Washington RHP Paolo Espino (3-4, 4.16). TV: Bally Sports Wisconsin. Radio: AM-620.