Brewers move on after blowing game against Nationals

WASHINGTON — The Milwaukee Brewers will have to forget fast as they continue their pursuit of a playoff spot by concluding a three-game series with the Washington Nationals on Sunday.

The Brewers led the Nationals 3-1 in the eighth inning Saturday but ended up on the wrong end of a 5-4 decision in a game that was delayed nearly two hours by rain and ended well past midnight.

The Nationals mounted a two-out rally against reliever Joakim Soria and Juan Soto and capped it with a two-run single against Dan Jennings with Milwaukee closer Josh Hader unavailable.

With a win, the Brewers (76-61) would have moved into the top wild-card spot in the National League.

“I think we’ll be fine,” Milwaukee starter Chase Anderson said after giving up one run in five innings. “I know how we respond to things. Our bullpen’s picked up the starters a lot this year. Just gotta pick those guys up.”

Soto had three hits to raise his average to .301 and Washington (68-68) climbed back to .500 as it tries to stay in the playoff picture.

Adam Eaton started the rally with a two-out double, Trea Turner singled him home, and Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon walked to set up Soto.

“It’s a testament to the boys. They don’t quit,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “They wanted to get back out there and play. They got the field ready. Stopped raining for us. We were able to come back and get a big win.”

Milwaukee right-hander Junior Guerra (6-9, 4.09) opposes rookie right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (2-1, 4.54) in Sunday’s rubber game.

Guerra is 0-4 with a 7.28 ERA in his last eight starts. He has allowed six earned runs in two of his last three starts. Last time out he only lasted 1 1/3 innings, allowing six runs and eight hits.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell said the team did not consider skipping Guerra in the rotation.

“We feel like Junior has pitched well for us this year,” Counsell said. “I won’t tell you his last start was a good start. I will tell you the starts before that were much better than they looked. There’s a lot of indicators that say those were not bad starts, they were bad luck.

“I think that’s why Junior’s getting the ball still. We still believe he’s throwing the ball well.”

Guerra is 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA in three games (two starts) versus the Nationals.

Meanwhile, Counsell said newly acquired Gio Gonzalez won’t start a game in the Brewers’ next series against the Chicago Cubs but will be available in the bullpen.

“He’s gonna get outs for us,” Counsell said. “He will play a role in this team going down the stretch. We made the trade and I’m glad we have him.”

Rodriguez has a 1.69 ERA in his last three starts. Last time out he threw six shutout innings, allowing two hits and four walks, as the Nationals pulled way late for a 15-0 win over the New York Mets when they scored 14 times in the final two innings.

“I think the biggest difference there is, before, I used to like to just battle with my fastball a lot,” he told MASN.com.

“Now I’m mixing in my pitches more … using my off-speed more and getting more comfortable and confident with those off-speed pitches.”

He’s making his first start against Milwaukee.

Nationals catcher Matt Wieters is dealing with a hip/groin issue that has bothered him since Washington’s series in Philadelphia earlier this week. He didn’t start, but pinch hit in the eighth inning.

Washington right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) threw a bullpen session Saturday.