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MIL@WSH: Francisco's two-run double puts Brewers up

WASHINGTON -- General manager Doug Melvin stayed away from Nationals Park on a gloomy Tuesday night, opting to remain at the team hotel to work the phones with two of his top lieutenants. Did that mean trades were brewing while the team scored a spirited, 4-0 win over Washington, snapping a six-game losing streak?

"No," Melvin said. "It just means we're working."

Left hamstring tightness cut short Wily Peralta's work against Stephen Strasburg, a new worry for a Brewers club that has been beset by injuries to the lineup and the starting rotation and played Tuesday without its three best hitters. Ryan Braun is on the disabled list, and Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez needed the night off to rest bumps and bruises.

But the replacement crew provided a happy ending after the Brewers erupted for four runs off Nationals reliever Drew Storen in the eighth inning for their first win in a week. Juan Francisco delivered the go-ahead double, and Martin Maldonado and Jeff Bianchi added an RBI apiece for insurance.

"We wanted to snap that losing streak, to do whatever we needed to do to figure it out," Maldonado said. "We are grown men here. We know what we have to do to win games.

"Our bullpen has been great, and if we score some runs, we're going to win a lot of games. We have to do whatever it takes to score some runs."

The bullpen was great again Tuesday, with John Axford, Jim Henderson (3-2), Michael Gonzalez and Francisco Rodriguez combining to work around six baserunners over the final 3 2/3 scoreless innings. The Brewers moved back to 16 games games under .500, and would take many more nights like Tuesday to convince Melvin to stop taking calls and instead make inquiries of his own.

The team is in its precarious position mostly because of a starting rotation that ranks last in the NL and second-to-last in the Majors with a 5.12 ERA, though Peralta provided a respite for 5 1/3 innings. He had only thrown 80 pitches when he exited suddenly with one out in the sixth, an impressive tally considering Peralta needed eight extra offerings in a 25-pitch first inning after second baseman Rickie Weeks made a wild relay throw on a potential double play.

After stranding the bases loaded in that inning, Peralta scattered two more singles and a walk while becoming the first Brewers starter in seven games to pitch into the sixth inning. But he had been feeling tightness in his left hamstring since the third inning, and, with one out and Ryan Zimmerman batting in the sixth, Peralta abruptly exited.

"We had a long game in Pittsburgh [on Sunday] and a long game yesterday [for the bullpen], so you don't want to go out," Peralta said. "I didn't want to come out, but I have to."

Axford was booed during a deliberate warmup -- the rules afforded him as much time as he wished -- and preserved the shutout into the seventh. Henderson pitched a scoreless seventh inning before the Brewers went ahead in the eighth.

Logan Schafer started the rally with a single, Weeks walked, and both scored when Francisco powered a Storen fastball to the right-center-field gap. Two batters later, with two outs, Maldonado hit a double that bounced out of left fielder Bryce Harper's glove, and Bianchi followed with a hit-and-run single for the final run of the game.

Peralta settled for a no-decision after no runs on three hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings with five strikeouts, and was every bit as effective before the injury as was Strasburg, who surrendered no Brewers runs on three hits and four walks in seven innings, with eight strikeouts.

"They threw the ball well tonight," Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "I mean Peralta, shoot, throwing hard, keeping the ball down in the zone. And then the guys they brought in after -- Henderson, Gonzo and K-Rod -- did a pretty good job, so we had some good pitching against us tonight."

"We needed a win today and an outing like that, too," Peralta said.

He expects to make his next start, but the Brewers will be cautious.

"He was throwing the ball great, and you never want to see a guy injured, but you don't want to take a risk with a guy like that," Maldonado said. "It's kind of hard seeing a guy throwing the ball that well and then leave a game like that."

The Brewers moved runners into scoring position only once during Strasburg's seven innings, when a Zimmerman error was sandwiched between two one-out walks. Strasburg went to the out pitch on which he relied all night, the curveball, to strike out Francisco on a pitch up and away and Sean Halton on a pitch in the dirt. When Halton, batting sixth in a lineup missing three regulars, failed to check his swing, Suzuki picked up the baseball and stepped on home plate to end the threat.

Asked what it was like to face Strasburg, Peralta just laughed.

"He's got unbelievable stuff," Peralta said. "When he threw me a couple of breaking balls -- the guy throws 100 mph and you're not going to be waiting for offspeed, especially when I'm a pitcher. It's fun. It's fun to face him. Unbelievable stuff. I just laughed at it. Why is he throwing me so many breaking balls? I thought he was going to hit me."

Said Maldonado: "Nasty. You can't see spin at all [on his curveball]."

For most of the Brewers, it was their first opportunity to see Strasburg pitch. He had never faced the Brewers, and only Francisco and Yuniesky Betancourt had batted against him.

"Explosive fastball. Really ridiculous curveball," manager Ron Roenicke said. "You don't see too many curveballs like that."

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