MILWAUKEE — Yunel Escobar and Wilson Ramos hit two-run homers and Bryce Harper continued his offensive surge by driving in two runs as the Washington Nationals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-2 on Saturday.
It was the just the type of performance the struggling Nationals needed from its 3-4-5 hitters after coming in losers of 11 of 14. While Harper has been hot all season, Escobar and Ramos both slumped recently at the plate.
Against the Brewers, the three looked fearsome, going 7 of 13 with six RBIs and chasing starter Jimmy Nelson (3-7) in the sixth.
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. Harper finished 3 for 3, but was hit by a pitch in the ninth and left the game. With RBIs in the first and sixth innings, he has 51 for the season.
Nationals starter Joe Ross (1-1) won for the first time in his major league career by scattering seven hits in eight solid innings.
It was the first time the Nationals had ever faced Nelson. It didn’t take long for them to figure him out.
Harper opened the scoring with a sharp RBI single to left in the first, then set the stage in the fifth with two outs by battling back from an 0-2 count. He took two close pitches to earn a walk and set up Ramos, whose home run just beyond the fence in right field fence landed with a loud thud off the picnic area awning.
Harper, who left the game after being hit by reliever Michael Blazek’s pitch just above the right knee in the ninth, has hits in all five games (9 of 17) of this three-city, eight-game trip. Escobar and Ramos had managed just six hits over 28 at-bats combined before Saturday.
The trio’s effort made all the difference as Washington (32-30) avoided falling back to .500 for the first time since May 8.
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.
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.
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.
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,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
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