WASHINGTON — Craig Counsell lamenting the Milwaukee Brewers’ failure to execute offensively has been a recurring theme this season.
Lately, so has the manager’s effusive praise of pitcher Adrian Houser.
The right-hander delivered his second straight outstanding start on Friday night, but Anthony Rendon’s tiebreaking RBI double off Junior Guerra in the eighth inning gave the Washington Nationals a 2-1 triumph over the Brewers in the opener of a three-game series at Nationals Park.
Houser stepped into a rotation hit hard by injuries and has delivered. Against the Nationals, he allowed two hits and one run over seven innings, walking two and recording four strikeouts before leaving with the game tied at 1.
“It was a great outing — he really pitched well,” Counsell said of Houser, who allowed one run over six innings with 10 strikeouts against the Texas Rangers on Sunday.
“I thought he hit another gear in the sixth and seventh innings and really took it too them. He got in a rhythm and he just didn’t lose it. I’m happy for him. We’ve had some guys come in and really solidify our starting pitching, and Adrian is at the head of the list.”
The Nationals’ five-game winning streak matches their longest of the season. At 66-55, they improved to 11 games over .500 for the first time since June 9, 2018. Milwaukee (63-59), which fell two games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, lost for just the third time in nine games.
Washington shortstop Trea Turner led off the eighth with a walk against Guerra (6-4), moved to second on Adam Eaton’s sacrifice and scored on Rendon’s double off the wall in right.
“Junior got ahead of (Turner and Rendon) and unfortunately wasn’t able to finish them off,” Counsell said.
Rendon, who drove in Washington’s first run on a double in the third, is hitting .354 with six homers and 34 RBIs in 34 games since July 6.
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Hunter Strickland (1-1) worked a scoreless eighth in his first decision since the Nationals acquired him from Seattle on July 31. Sean Doolittle gave up a four-pitch leadoff walk to Keston Hiura in the ninth but finished up for his 28th save in 33 tries.
Milwaukee shortstop Orlando Arcia opened the scoring with his 13th home run to lead off the third against Washington starter Patrick Corbin, but the left-hander wiggled out of repeated jams over six innings, striking out eight. He used his slider to induce swinging third strikes to leave at least one runner in scoring position in the third, fifth and sixth innings. Corbin was responsible for 10 of the 13 Brewers left on base.
“Corbin’s slider kind of befuddled our guys tonight and it does that to a lot of hitters, for sure,” Counsell said. “He’s got one of the better sliders in the game, there’s no question about it. Some guys were just having a really hard time seeing it.”
Milwaukee outhit Washington 9-3.
“It’s the same story — we just didn’t hit with runners in scoring position,” Counsell said. “The hits are going to have to come. We have to keep believing they’re going to come.”
From the infirmary
Brewers right-hander Zach Davies (back spasms) is scheduled to come off the injured list and start Monday in the series opener at St. Louis, giving lefty Gio Gonzalez an extra day of rest between his turns. ... Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer (mild rhomboid strain), who has made just one start since the All-Star break, will throw another simulated game today. The three-time Cy Young Award winner is 9-5 with a 2.41 ERA.
Right-hander Jordan Lyles (7-8, 4.71 ERA), who is 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA since Milwaukee reacquired him last month, is scheduled to start Saturday night against Washington right-hander Anibal Sanchez (7-6, 3.75 ERA).
Sanchez is 7-0 with a 2.99 ERA in 13 starts since coming off the injured list on May 29 to match the longest winning streak of his career.