WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and Brewers found themselves in a pitchers' duel on Tuesday night, and it was the Brewers who won the battle, 4-0, at Nationals Park. It marked the ninth time the Nationals were shut out this season. They dropped their record to 42-41 and are now seven games behind the Braves in the National League East.
There was no score until the eighth inning, when the Brewers scored all four runs against reliever Drew Storen, who was slow in his delivery and unable to hold runners. The Brewers had runners on first and second with one out when Juan Francisco doubled past center fielder Denard Span, scoring Logan Schafer and Rickie Weeks.
Two batters later, Martin Maldonado hit a fly ball to left fielder Bryce Harper, who looked like he had a bead on the ball. However, the ball went in and out of Harper's glove for an RBI double.
"I dropped it. I just dropped it," Harper said.
On a run-and-hit play, Jeff Bianchi singled to left field, easily scoring Maldonado. Storen saw his ERA go from 3.82 to 4.76. The last time Storen allowed an earned run prior to Tuesday was June 11 against the Rockies.
Storen didn't have any excuses for why he struggled.
"I just fell behind and I left the ball up in the zone," Storen said. "They are good hitters. I fell behind these guys. You give them something to hit and they are going to take care of it."
Right-hander Stephen Strasburg started for the Nationals and didn't figure in the decision. He pitched seven shutout innings, allowed three hits, struck out eight and walked four. Before the game started, Strasburg noticed that his curveball wasn't working well in the bullpen. But he still felt he could throw it in the game because Milwaukee is a fastball-hitting club.
"It's how it is sometimes. [The curveball] doesn't really work in the 'pen. As you as you get out there, it just seems to click," Strasburg said.
The Brewers came close to scoring off Strasburg in the sixth inning. Milwaukee had the bases loaded with one out, but Francisco struck out looking and Sean Halton struck out swinging to end the threat.
"He's got unbelievable stuff," Brewers starter Wily Peralta said about Strasburg. "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."
Entering Tuesday's action, the run-support average for Strasburg was 3.38, which was the 11th lowest in the NL. But that didn't seem to matter to Strasburg.
"I'm tired of talking about that. These guys battle every single day just like I do," Strasburg said. "It just didn't work out for us tonight. I would like to stop answering questions about run support."
Harper felt differently when it comes to run support.
"[Strasburg] threw his [butt] off tonight," Harper said. "A guy who throws like that -- he has done that all year long and that why his ERA is what it is. It sucks we didn't score any runs."
Peralta started for Milwaukee and left the game in the sixth inning because of a left hamstring strain. The Nationals had a chance to score against Peralta in the first inning. With runners on first and second with no outs, Harper popped up to Weeks at second base, Ryan Zimmerman grounded into a force play at second and Ian Desmond grounded out to Weeks to end the threat.
"It's definitely frustrating," catcher Kurt Suzuki said. "Anybody, not just Stephen out there, we want to score runs, and the last two days before today it was pretty awesome, pretty fun. So it was a bummer tonight, but you got to get it back tomorrow."
Peralta held the Nationals scoreless for 5 1/3 innings, while John Axford, Jim Henderson, Michael Gonzalez and Francisco Rodriguez blanked Washington the rest of the way.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.