WASHINGTON (AP)—Knowing that Milwaukee’s Guillermo Mota was having trouble commanding his changeup, and aware that the right-hander might be overthrowing his fastball, Elijah Dukes was prepared for a ball in the dirt.
The decisive rally against Mota (1-3) started when Dukes drew a one-out walk on a 3-2 pitch, laying off off-speed pitches that have frustrated him much of the season. Pinch-hitter Dmitri Young singled to right, moving Dukes to third.
Mota’s first pitch to Felipe Lopez bounced short of the plate and squirted off to the first-base side of foul territory, allowing Dukes to scamper home with the winning run.
Hitting just .105 in 38 at-bats since returning from a right hamstring injury that sidelined him for 34 games, Dukes adjusted when he saw Mota struggling with his control.
But just as he sprinted from first to third on Young’s single and raced down the third-base line to score the game-winner, Dukes quickly bolted the clubhouse before talking to reporters. Nationals public relations staffers tracked him down on his cell phone and hurriedly set up a postgame conference call.
“I already knew that (Mota) would throw a lot of breaking balls. … On my at-bat, he had a lot of balls that he was gripping the fastball too tight,” Dukes said. “I said I was going to just be prepared to run if anything got away.”
Dukes impressed his teammates by coaxing a walk from Mota.
“That was a professional at-bat. It was probably the best at-bat (Dukes) had this year,” Young said.
Mota called the turn of events—the second run Washington scored off a Brewers wild pitch—“bad luck.” But it was clear Milwaukee’s game plan was to avoid challenging Dukes with fastballs.
“We were trying to go with a changeup away. I was sitting in the middle away a little bit,” Brewers catcher Mike Rivera said. “(Mota) overthrew it, and I didn’t have (a) chance. We thought that would be a good pitch to get a groundball and try to get out of the inning, and he overthrew it a little bit.”
Jon Rauch (3-1) pitched a perfect ninth for the victory.
Aaron Boone homered for the Nationals, who squandered a 6-0 lead after five innings.
“It’s easy to lose all your energy once you’ve lost a six-run lead,” Washington manager Manny Acta said. “These guys, they don’t go down. That’s why I always stick with these guys,”
Corey Hart hit a two-run homer for the Brewers, who have lost eight of 11.
A three-run fourth extended the Nationals’ lead to 4-0. After singles by Zimmerman and Boone, Lastings Milledge dropped an RBI double down the left-field line and, one out later, Wily Mo Pena added a two-run double to left-center.
Boone lined Parra’s 1-1 pitch into the left-field seats for a two-run homer in the fifth. His fourth home run scored Guzman, who had drawn a leadoff walk, and chased Parra from the game.
Parra went 4 1-3 innings, giving up six runs and seven hits while walking three and striking out three. He has won only one of his past eight starts.
The Brewers scored six times in the sixth—four runs coming with two outs— to tie the game. It was Milwaukee’s highest-scoring inning this season.
Hart drove Tim Redding’s pitch over the center-field wall in the sixth, scoring Prince Fielder, who led off with a single. Russell Branyan doubled and pinch-hitter Joe Dillon blooped a two-out RBI single over Guzman at shortstop, making it 6-3.
“It was big hit after big hit after big hit. You’re down six, and it shows that your team is still fighting and pushing,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said.
Redding allowed five runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings. He walked one and struck out seven.
“The first five innings—productive. The sixth inning—absolutely horrible,” Redding said. “There’s no excuse to put us in a situation where we have a 6-0 lead and have to fight back in the bottom of the ninth.”
Branyan started at third base a day after his contract was purchased from Triple-A Nashville. He went 2-for-3. … Zimmerman, who is bothered by a sore left shoulder he injured while sliding into second base a week ago, will not start Monday, Acta said. … Boone has hit safely in 12 of 13 starts, batting .426 (20-for-47) with three homers and nine RBIs. … Hart has five home runs in his last eight games. … Weeks was twice hit by pitches and has been plunked a major league-leading nine times this year.