Coming off a game in which they pounded out 12 runs on 15 hits, the Nationals seemed more than equipped to come back from a measly 1-0 deficit to a rookie pitcher.
But, as baseball lifers say, momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher — and that belonged to the Milwaukee Brewers on Independence Day. For one afternoon, Junior Guerra proved to be the answer to the red-hot Nats lineup, preventing it from giving the holiday crowd at Nats Park anything to cheer about on an otherwise dreary, overcast day.
"We don't get shutout much," Dusty Baker said afterward.
Milwaukee's 31-year-old right hander shut down NL's most homer-happy offense, not only just keeping Nats hitters inside the park, but handing them just their fifth shutout of the season. Washington only had two opportunities to make noise with men in scoring position, and failed to come through with the big hit.
"You can't take anything away from him," the manager said of Guerra. "He threw an outstanding game. It was kind of an uneventful type day."
As a result of the silent bats, starter Max Scherzer suffered a tough-luck loss, with his only blemish coming in the fifth inning when he allowed a solo home run to Martin Maldonado.
"Most of the times, solo bombs, they don’t beat you,” Scherzer said. “That’s usually a mentality that works and keeps you on the attack. It’s the only time in my life you lose on a solo bomb, but it happened today.”
The 31-year-old Nats ace pitched six innings of one-run ball, striking out seven and walking three in 116 pitches. It was by no means a dominant outing, but more than good enough to earn a win when the offense has a typical day.
“Just couldn’t manufacture runs for Scherzer, [he] pitched a good game,” Ben Revere said. “Always frustrating like that when you get shutout. One of those deals you got to put behind you and get going tomorrow.”
Loss aside, Scherzer has quietly rebounded from an uneven start to his season. Including Monday's outing, he owns a 1.90 over his last 47 1/3 innings. Though his quality effort wasn't rewarded, he knows that he'll be on the winning side more often than that if he continues his recent performance.
“I threw the ball well today,” said Scherzer. “I had good stuff. Obviously you would like to pitch seven innings, but when you go six innings and give up one run, you’re giving your team a chance to win. So you don’t beat yourself up.”