WASHINGTON (AP) - For most of the season, the Milwaukee Brewers' bullpen has been a rare bright spot for a club that has struggled to win games since early May.
But it hadn't faced Wilson Ramos yet.
Ramos returned from the disabled list to drive in five runs against Brewers relievers Thursday, including a go-ahead, three-run homer in the seventh inning off Brandon Kintzler, sending the Brewers to an 8-5 Fourth of July matinee defeat to the Washington Nationals.
``I take a lot of pride in us having one of the best bullpens in the major leagues, and obviously we battled back and you definitely don't want it to fall on us,' Kintzler said. ``But if you're going to lose a game, it's going to be the bullpen's fault anyway.'
The home run came after Ramos singled in a pair of runs in the sixth off reliever Burke Badenhop to make it 5-2.
The Brewers rallied in the top of the seventh with Yuniesky Betancourt's solo homer and Carlos Gomez's two-run shot to tie the game.
But Jayson Werth singled off Tom Gorzelanny (1-1) with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke then brought in Kintzler to face Anthony Rendon in a righty-righty matchup.
The move backfired. Kintzler walked Rendon, then had a 1-0 slider put in the left field stands by Ramos, who gave the fans a curtain call.
``Just hung a slider,' Kintzler said. ``What are you going to do? It won't be the last slider I hang, either.'
Ramos, back after missing 44 games with a strained left hamstring, finished with three hits and a career-high five RBIs as the Nationals earned a split of the four-game series and moved back above .500 in their seesaw season.
The bullpen's bad day contrasted with some solid recent performances from a unit that entered Thursday second in the majors with a 2.84 ERA.
Milwaukee's relievers worked 14 2-3 innings during the four games in Washington. Kintzler, who last pitched three scoreless innings in Sunday's 14-inning loss to Pittsburgh, hadn't allowed an earned run in his last 8 1-3 innings, a stretch of six appearances.
``I was hoping he'd get (Rendon),' Roenicke said. ``But I think when you go through the matchups, sometimes you can do things about it and sometimes you can't. We're at a place in our bullpen right now where I don't have a lot of options on who I'm going to.'
The Brewers brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth against Nationals closer Rafael Soriano. It might have been Gomez at the plate, but he had been taken out in the double switch that brought Kintzler into the game.
Roenicke said he made the switch because Gomez's bothersome shoulder had tightened up after a collision with the outfield wall. Gomez said he was fine.
``It surprised me when I got out of the game,' Gomez said, ``especially after I hit a home run.'
Brewers starter Donovan Hand went five innings, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks, in his third major league start.
NOTES: The Brewers were hurt by a pair of minor league mistakes. They failed to execute a rundown when Bryce Harper was caught between first and second in the third inning, and Juan Francisco strayed too far off first and was thrown out by the cutoff man after an RBI single in the sixth. ... It was a star-spangled day in the nation's capital. The game began at 11:06 a.m. and featured a national anthem sang by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a new ``Freedom Song' performed by Neil Diamond.
The Associated Press News Service
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