MILWAUKEE — It took Jimmy Nelson 14 batters to start regularly throwing his fastball for strikes. Once he did, it was lights out for the Washington Nationals.
Nelson scattered three singles and struck out 11 over seven innings and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Nationals 1-0 on Friday night.
"I had to work around it and use my other pitches until I settled in and got that fastball command," Nelson (11-6) said.
The right-hander tied his career high in strikeouts while pitching out of trouble in the first three innings before settling down. He walked three and hit one batter, retiring 13 of the final 14 batters he faced.
Washington went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position in the first three innings before the Nationals' bats went quiet.
"Very rarely do you lose a game 1-0," Washington manager Dusty Baker said of his team, which hadn't lost 1-0 since Sept. 20, 2016 at Miami. "Especially with our team and especially in the first inning. Usually, it doesn't hold up."
Nelson's performance in the third inning was key. He walked two batters and hit Ryan Zimmerman with a pitch to load the bases with one out. That's when he started to throw his fastball for strikes, and he struck out Howie Kendrick and Jayson Werth to end the inning.
"As soon as he got his fastball locked in, he got on a pretty good roll," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "He made huge pitches in that third inning."
Neil Walker, obtained from the New York Mets on Aug. 12, homered in the first inning off Tanner Roark (11-9).
Rookie Josh Hader struck out the side in the eighth inning and Corey Knebel struck out the side in the ninth for his 32nd save in 37 chances. Knebel has not allowed a run in his last 19 outings.
"Both of those guys came out with their plus-plus stuff," Counsell said.
Zimmerman singled in the sixth, but was erased on a double play, and was the Nationals' only baserunner in the final six innings until Werth walked with two outs in the ninth.
Milwaukee remained 3 1/2 games behind Chicago in the NL Central after the Cubs beat Atlanta 2-0 on Friday.
Walker hit a 2-1 pitch into the right field stands with one out in the first inning, his 12th of the year. In 16 games since joining the team, he is batting .306 with two home runs and seven RBIs.
Roark allowed one run, five hits and one intentional walk while striking out 10 in seven innings.
"I have the utmost confidence in the guys here to score runs," Roark said. "It was just one of those games. It happens."
Washington struck out 17 times and Milwaukee 11.
Ryan Braun was ejected in the fourth inning for arguing a called strike. He took a pitch that home plate umpire Mark Ripperger called a strike (for strike two). When he struck out swinging to end the at-bat he turned to Ripperger and complained, earning a quick ejection. Braun is hitting .136 (6 for 44) in his last 13 games.
Minor leaguer Julio Mendez is in critical but stable condition after being hit in the chest by a pitch last weekend. Milwaukee general manager David Stearns provided the update Friday. The 20-year-old Mendez suffered a cardiac event after being hit by the pitch on Aug. 26. The infielder was playing for a rookie-level affiliate in Arizona. He is being treated at a hospital in the Phoenix area.
Nationals: RHP Ryan Madson (finger sprain) and LHP Enny Romero (forearm strain) were reinstated from the 10-day DL. Baker said he was unsure when Madson would be available to pitch.
Brewers: C Andrew Susac (right trapezius strain) and LHP Brent Suter (rotator cuff strain) were reinstated from the 10-day DL.
Nationals: RHP Max Scherzer (13-5) has a 1.93 ERA in his last five starts, and will be on the mound for Washington Saturday in Game 3 of the four-game series.
Brewers: RHP Brandon Woodruff (1-1), recalled from the minors on Friday, will make his first major-league start since Aug. 19.