MILWAUKEE — Back in the comforts of Miller Park for just the fourth game in their last 19, the Milwaukee Brewers looked like a team who had just arrived home from a seven-game road trip out west.
The Brewers put together a feeble offensive performance against left-hander Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals, managing just three hits in a 3-0 loss Monday to snap their four-game winning streak. A three-run home run from Adam LaRoche off Matt Garza in the third inning was the difference, as Gonzalez and the Nationals bullpen shut down what was a red-hot offense.
"It’s hard to tell," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said when asked if he thought his team was flat Monday. "When you don’t hit, you look flat. Yes, we looked flat but I think it’s more when you don’t get baserunners, that’s the way it’s going to look.
Making just his second start since returning from the disabled list, Gonzalez surprised the Brewers by throwing quite a few more changeups than he usually does. The left-hander has thrown changeups 8.9 percent of the time over his career, including a career-high 13.9 percent this season, according to FanGraphs.com.
Gonzalez went with the changeup on 23.7 percent of his pitches Monday night, completely catching the Brewers off guard.
"It shocked everybody," Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez said. "I never in my career seen as many changeups as I saw today. They got me out today on changeups. Every at-bat, they threw me changeups. I didn’t expect to see (more) than maybe one. Not like continually, like they’ve been doing.
"It’s part of the game. They made the adjustment and came today strong, making big pitches. They got us today. Good for Washington."
Gonzalez’s wildness contributed to Milwaukee’s only big scoring chance Monday, as a walk along with a Jean Segura single put runners at the corners for Ryan Braun with one out. Braun waved at three offspeed pitches that were well out of the zone and struck out. Following a walk to Jonathan Lucroy to load the bases, Gomez flew out to left to end the inning.
The Nationals loaded the bases with nobody out in the second inning, but Garza responded with a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to escape with no damage. He wasn’t as fortunate in the third inning, as Jayson Werth provided the only offense of the game with a three-run home run to dead center field.
"We lost 3-0," Garza said. "It was a slider, oh well. I wish I could take it back, but it was the right pitch at the time. I just didn’t execute it."
Garza bounced back after allowing the home run and retired 14 of the final 15 batters he faced, giving up just the three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts over seven innings.
"He threw the ball well the first few innings but that third inning got him," Roenicke said. "After that, I thought he threw a really good ballgame. I thought it made a difference when he started throwing his curveball for strikes and some good sliders in the dirt. Good outing, one bad pitch."
Streak ends: Carlos Gomez fought to keep his on-base streak and his hitting streak going with a 12-pitch at-bat in the ninth inning, but a strikeout closed the book on both.
By going 0-for-4 on Monday, Gomez’s streak of reaching base in an MLB-best 35 consecutive games came to an end, as did his 18-game hitting streak.
Gomez said he saw Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon playing back in the ninth inning and could have dropped down a bunt for a hit to extend both streaks, but decided against doing so with the Brewers trailing 3-0.
"You see I had the opportunity in the ninth inning with third base playing way back, but I’m going to defend (the streak) like a man," Gomez said. "Just be me and enjoy the game. I had the opportunity to drop a bunt, but late in the game, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to try to drive the ball. I had a great at-bat, and I think that last at-bat made me feel better for tomorrow."