'Sun monster' helps Nationals this time; Zimmermann, Zimmerman lead 12-2 victory over Brewers

09/24/2012 04:50 EDT | Updated 11/24/2012 05:12 EST
WASHINGTON - This time, the "sun monster" helped Jayson Werth's Washington Nationals and hurt the Milwaukee Brewers.

A day after the Nationals misplayed a pair of fly balls in the midday glare, Werth wound up with a two-out, two-run double when Brewers centre fielder Carlos Gomez lost a ball in the sun to spark a six-run fourth inning Monday, and Washington beat Milwaukee 12-2 to cut its magic number for winning the NL East to five.

Jordan Zimmermann (12-8) allowed one run and four hits in 6 2-3 innings, while delivering two hits and driving in a run as a batter. Ryan Zimmerman produced three hits and four RBIs for the Nationals, who are a majors-best 93-60 and increased their division lead over the Atlanta Braves to five games with nine to play.

Marco Estrada (4-7) lasted only four innings for the Brewers, who entered the day 2 1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL's second wild-card berth. He allowed seven runs — six earned — and eight hits.

The Nationals finished with 14 hits; five players had at least two apiece.

In the bottom of the first, Bryce Harper reached on an accidental-swing infield single and moved to second when Zimmerman walked. With two outs, Estrada threw a changeup in the dirt, and Harper, already with a large lead at second base, took off for third. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy threw the ball past third baseman Aramis Ramirez and into left field, letting Harper score an unearned run, making it 1-0.

Corey Hart tied the score immediately, hitting Zimmermann's first pitch of the second inning for his 28th homer.

In the fourth, Danny Espinosa doubled and went to third on a balk, but was thrown out at home by Hart on Roger Bernadina's grounder. Later, Zimmermann's RBI single gave Washington a 2-1 lead.

It grew to 4-1 moments later when Werth hit a high fly that could have been the third out — but Gomez couldn't find it. Gomez paused and held his glove up to try to shade his view, then suddenly scrambled to his left and tried to make a diving catch. The ball smacked off the dark sweat band on his left wrist and trickled away for what was ruled a two-run double.

After Harper walked and joined Werth in a double steal, Zimmerman sent a three-run shot to right-centre for his 24th homer and a 7-1 lead.

A sort of payback, perhaps: In Milwaukee's 6-2 victory Sunday, Werth and Harper each failed to catch a ball, leading to hits. Werth's misplay was on a shot by Gomez. Afterward, Harper joked about trouble dealing with the "sun monster."

Washington piled on against Milwaukee's relievers Monday, including Kurt Suzuki's two-run double in the fifth and three runs in the eighth.

NOTES: The Nationals will throw three left-handed starters in their next series at Philadelphia, with Ross Detwiler (10-6) on Tuesday, John Lannan (3-0) on Wednesday, and Gio Gonzalez (20-8) on Thursday. ... Washington LF Michael Morse was out of the starting lineup because of a bothersome hand; he's had problems with both hands in the past month or so. When a reporter asked manager Davey Johnson whether it was Morse's right or left that was the issue now, he replied: "I'm not really 100 per cent sure. I know he came into the training room after (Sunday's) game. He was having trouble with his hand. I think he was looking forward to getting a shot or something." ... Harper slammed against the wall in deep centre to catch a shot off the bat of Ramirez to end the first, then rolled onto his back and stayed down for a second or two. Eventually, he popped up and jogged to the dugout to loud cheers.