WASHINGTON (AP) — The surging Milwaukee Brewers are a formidable enough opponent. Battling the Brewers and a tough afternoon sun was more than the Washington Nationals could handle Sunday.
Jonathan Lucroy had two RBI singles and Milwaukee twice benefited from Washington outfielders losing fly balls in the sun as the Brewers beat the Nationals 6-2.
Washington (92-60) leads the NL East by 4½ games over Atlanta, a 2-1 winner over Philadelphia on Sunday. The Nationals magic number to clinch the division remains at six.
"It was just one of those days nothing seemed to go right," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
The Nationals had eight hits and walked six times, but stranded eight runners and hit into three double-plays.
Milwaukee broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run seventh. Rickie Weeks singled and Ryan Braun grounded into a fielder's choice. Aramis Ramirez doubled to right, putting runners on second and third.
After Corey Hart was intentionally walked, Lucroy hit a grounder up the middle. Washington shortstop Ian Desmond made a diving stop, but couldn't make the play at second and the Brewers led 3-2 with the bases still loaded.
Carlos Gomez hit a fly ball to right that was playable, but Jayson Werth lost it in the sun. Gomez was on with a single and Ramirez scored.
"It's a tough sun. There's no doubt about it," Johnson said.
Jean Segura's groundout drove in Hart with the final run of the inning.
Washington's Ryan Mattheus (5-3) allowed three earned runs and four hits.
Reliever Brandon Kintzler (3-0) pitched a scoreless sixth inning for the win. John Axford recorded the final out with two runners on for his 33rd save.
The Brewers (79-73) remained 2½ games behind St. Louis, a 6-3 winner against the Cubs, for the final NL wild-card berth.
Trailing 2-0, the Nationals tied the game in the fifth. Desmond led off with a walk and Danny Espinosa followed with a double to left field, sending Desmond to third.
Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo struck out Kurt Suzuki with a 3-2 fastball and got ahead of pinch-hitter Chad Tracy 0-2. Tracy worked the count to 2-2 and fouled off two pitches before lofting a single to short right, scoring Desmond while Espinosa stopped at third.
"It was tough all around. They have pretty good hitters," Gallardo said. "They made me work a lot for sure, fouled off some pretty good pitches."
Werth tied the game with a sacrifice fly to left.
Milwaukee took a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Braun led off with a fly ball to straightaway center and when Bryce Harper lost the ball in the sun, it dropped in and Braun was on second with a double. Ramirez flied to Harper, who had trouble seeing that fly ball, but caught it.
"You can't catch what you can't see. Nothing you can do about it. The sun monster got me," Harper said of Braun's hit. "When it's right down the middle of the sun it's kind of hard. So you try to go left or right, try to get below it. Tried to get below the first one, got below the second one and caught it."
Hart singled to left. Braun had to hold up initially and stopped at third. Lucroy then grounded a single just past a diving Adam LaRoche at first to make it 1-0. Logan Schafer doubled, scoring Hart.
Washington's Chien-Ming Wang, making his first start since June 19, went four innings and gave up two runs and eight hits while striking out two.
"He pitched well. He made good pitches," Johnson said. "He deserved better."
Wang was starting because Tuesday's rainout and Wednesday's doubleheader meant Sunday's scheduled starter, Jordan Zimmermann, would have been working on three days' rest. Johnson chose to push Zimmerman back a day rather than pitch him on short rest, and gave the start to Wang.
Gallardo went five innings for Milwaukee, allowing two earned runs and six hits.
Twice in the first three innings, the Nationals had runners on first and third with one out and didn't score.
NOTES: The Brewers will start Marco Estrada (4-6) in Monday afternoon's series finale. Zimmermann (11-8) pitches for Washington. ... Wang's double was the first of his career. ... Milwaukee's Norichika Aoki saw his hitting streak ended at 12 games.