Game in a nutshell: Two innings into this one, it looked like we might be in for a slugfest. Adam LaRoche launched a two-run homer in the bottom of the first off Shaun Marcum. Jonathan Lucroy then responded with a solo homer in the top of the second off Edwin Jackson. Long night for the pitching staffs? Actually, no. Both Jackson and Marcum dominated after that, with Jackson getting the edge thanks in no small part to some stellar defense behind him. Bryce Harper nailed Ryan Braun at the plate with a perfect throw in the top of the fourth. Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond combined to turn a nifty, 4-6-3 double play moments later to end that inning. And Jesus Flores made perhaps his best throw of the year to catch Jean Segura trying to steal second in the top of the eighth, capping a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play that brought a roar from the crowd of 30,382. Those roars, though, turned to boos in the ninth inning when Tyler Clippard (whose hold on the closer's job was already tenuous) blew his fifth save of the year, letting the Brewers rally to score the tying run, the go-ahead run and an insurance run in stunning fashion. The Nationals couldn't rally in the bottom of the ninth, so they wound up suffering one of their more frustrating losses of the season. On the bright side, the Braves lost in Philadelphia, so the Nationals' lead in the NL East remains 5 12 games and their magic number to clinch the division title is down to 7.
Hitting highlight: They got the early blast from LaRoche, and little did the Nationals know they wouldn't get anything else the rest of the night. Good thing LaRoche got a hold of a changeup from Marcum in the bottom of the first inning and crushed it off the back wall of the right-field bullpen. Even better that Ryan Zimmerman was on base at the time, making it a 2-run blast. That gives LaRoche 31 homers for the season (one shy of his career high) and 96 RBI for the season (four shy of his career high).
Pitching lowlight: When Davey Johnson revealed this afternoon he planned to divide save opportunities between Clippard and Drew Storen, you had to wonder how Clippard would respond. Johnson wasted no time giving him another opportunity, handing him a 2-1 lead in the ninth. It wasn't really Clippard's fault he got into quick trouble: Norichika Aoki put down a perfect bunt to open the inning, then took second on Flores' passed ball. But what happened after that was Clippard's fault. Braun singled home the tying run. Aramis Ramirez doubled home the go-ahead run. Throw in a wild pitch for good measure, and Clippard stunningly was given the hook in mid-inning and booed as he walked back to the dugout.
Key stat: Nationals pitchers who have won 10 or more games in a season: Livan Hernandez (15 in 2005, 10 in 2010), Esteban Loaiza (12 in 2005), Ramon Ortiz (11 in 2006), Tim Redding (10 in 2008), Tyler Clippard (11 in 2010), John Lannan (10 in 2011), Gio Gonzalez (19 in 2012), Stephen Strasburg (15 in 2012), Jordan Zimmermann (11 in 2012) and Ross Detwiler (10 in 2012).
Up next: The series continues with a Saturday matinee at Nationals Park. Gio Gonzalez will once again be in search of his 20th win when he faces right-hander Wily Peralta at 1:05 p.m.