MILWAUKEE (AP) - Not even Washington's bullpen is reliable right now. That fact alone is gut-wrenching for reliever Tyler Clippard.
Handed a three-run lead, the bullpen gave up two runs in both the seventh and eighth innings, capped by Jonathan Lucroy's two-out, two-run single, rallying the Milwaukee Brewers over the Nationals 7-6 on Tuesday night.
``It is a tough loss. The game speaks for itself,' Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. ``It is not a way we generally we have lost games. Our bullpen has done a great job holding leads and it just didn't happen.'
Lucroy singled down the right-field line, and while the throw home came in plenty of time, the ball deflected off Wilson Ramos' glove just before Brandon Boggs barreled into him and across the plate.
``We had a great relay. When the ball is coming into the catcher and the runner is coming there at the same time and it is on a hop and you are trying to field it, sense where the runner is and everything, he was out if we were able to the hold the ball,' Riggleman said.
Michael Morse hit his first grand slam and his second homer in as many days, but the Nationals still found a way to lose for the sixth time in seven tries on this road trip after taking a 6-2 lead in the fourth.
``It is gut-wrenching. We are in a rough stretch right now,' Clippard said. ``We got to stay positive. These losses hurt.'
Starter Livan Hernandez hit a run-scoring single in the second, Morse hit his slam in the third and Ian Desmond doubled in another run in the fourth that chased Brewers starter Chris Narveson.
``Mike is such a powerful hitter. Mike is what he is. He is a good hitter. I am not anticipating another home run tomorrow - two home runs won't surprise me,' Riggleman joked.
Hernandez was in line to snap a four-game losing streak after departing with a 6-3 lead, but the Nationals' normally steady bullpen imploded in a big way.
``Why are you always asking me the bullpen questions?' said Hernandez, who cut off a line of questioning he didn't like. ``I gave up two home runs. We got the best bullpen in baseball. Sometimes it happens in baseball. You are not going to be perfect every time.'
Clippard allowed a two-run homer to Rickie Weeks that cut it to 6-5 before getting out of the seventh. In the eighth, Sean Burnett forced Prince Fielder to ground out before leaving for Henry Rodriguez.
Rodriguez (1-1) allowed a single to Casey McGehee and struck out Mark Kotsay for the second out. After Boggs walked, Lucroy hit his flare down the right-field line. Jayson Werth's relay throw got to the infield in time, but Ramos never had control of the ball.
``That's baseball,' Rodriguez said through an interpreter. ``It was a jam shot.'
Brewers reliever Mike McClendon (2-0) picked up the win with two scoreless innings and John Axford converted his 10th straight save to give him 13 for the season after another shaky outing when it appeared he had struck out the side.
Axford fanned the first two and got a third against Desmond, but the ball squirted away and Desmond reached on the wild pitch. Werth singled and Axford walked Ramos to load the bases.
Morse popped out to right field to end it, giving the Brewers their longest winning streak at home since a matching eight-game streak in 1995 at County Stadium.
``Every loss is a loss,' Riggleman said. ``It stings, but they all sting.'
NOTES: Nationals OF Rick Ankiel was reinstated from the 15-day DL after a sore right wrist kept him out of the last 19 games. He entered the game in the fifth and finished 0-for-2. ... Desmond is 15 of 16 in stolen base attempts. ... The Nationals lost for the first time in 12 games when scoring at least six runs. ... Washington fell to 17-2 when leading after seven innings.
Colin Fly can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/cfly
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