WASHINGTON -- Before getting to Brewers manager Ron Roenicke's critical comments following a walk-off, 5-4 loss to the Nationals, it must be noted that his team did some things well Sunday.
Ryan Braun scored a run from second base on a dribbler back to the pitcher, and Jean Segura stole another when he scored from third on a sharp ground ball to a drawn-in shortstop. Rickie Weeks forced a bottom of the ninth inning by driving home a run against a Nationals closer who hadn't surrendered one in his last 12 outings, and hadn't blown a save in his last 10 chances.
But it was the things the Brewers did not do well Sunday that had Roenicke fuming.
"Really, we need to quit making so many mistakes," he said. "We're not always going to swing the bat great, and we're not always going to pitch great, but we should be able to make solid plays. In close ballgames, that's what it comes down to."
The Brewers have not been winning many ballgames, close or otherwise, of late, leaving them to pack up the visitor's clubhouse at Nationals Park in danger of surrendering first place in the National League Central for the first time in 116 days.
After the Brewers' 13th loss in the last 16 games, it took a late Cardinals loss to the Dodgers for Milwaukee to retain its share of the top spot.
"Our focus has to be on ourselves," said Braun. "We're obviously aware of the fact there's three teams behind us that are really good teams, but we need to play good baseball to have an opportunity to continue to be in first place. I don't think it's so much about where we are right now, it's about playing good baseball."
Braun and Segura helped the Brewers build a 3-1 lead for starter Yovani Gallardo, who promptly was burned by a pair of misplaced curveballs during Washington's three-run fourth inning. One was a hanger that Ryan Zimmerman deposited into the right-center field seats for a tying, two-run home run. The other was in the dirt, bouncing away from Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy for a go-ahead wild pitch.
That made it 4-3, a score that stood into the ninth inning as the Brewers went 1-for-15 against the first three pitchers to emerge from Washington's tough bullpen. The ninth belonged to Soriano, who had not suffered a blown save since June 7, had not allowed a run since June 10, and had allowed only two hits in his previous nine outings.
Scooter Gennett put the Brewers in business with a pinch-hit single and was replaced by a pinch-runner who advanced when Carlos Gomez walked. Weeks followed with a single to center field that tied the game.
That was good. What followed was not.
With Braun at the plate, Gomez, running on his own, broke for third. Weeks read the play and went for second, but Nats catcher Jose Lobaton threw him out, and when Braun flied out to deep center field, a promising inning was over.
"I got a late jump. He kind of started a little bit and then went," Weeks said. "You can't say one play is what did it. It's one of those things you wish that didn't happen, but it did."
Weeks expected Lobaton to throw to third, but the catcher made a wise decision. Roenicke was displeased that Weeks didn't get a better jump.
"We did a nice job of coming back and tying it, but we let an opportunity go," Roenicke said. "When you have a chance to steal a base with Gomez there and you have Braun at the plate, you feel like you're going to score another run."
He added later: "If we do things right, maybe [closer Francisco Rodriguez] is in that ballgame with a one-run lead and [Rob] Wooten's not in there."
In a tie game, Wooten got the call. With Anthony Rendon at first base and two outs, Wooten's sinker away cut back over the plate and Jayson Werth pulled it into the left-field corner. Outfielder Khris Davis retrieved the baseball and overthrew the cutoff man, Jean Segura, allowing Rendon to score without a play at the plate.
Nationals third-base coach Bob Henley waved Rendon all the way.
"We've got to try to win the game there," Washington manager Matt Williams said. "If 'Hen' stops him there, we're banking on another base hit. We've got to take the chance there."
For the Brewers, it marked another fundamental lapse, Roenicke said. Actually, more than one.
"If he hits the cutoff man, he's out," Roenicke said. "And there should be somebody behind 'Seggy,' too, so if you overthrow him, there's a second guy there."
Roenicke is tired of hearing about the Brewers' recent losing stretch.
"You know, I don't care about 'the stretch' and what happened before," Roenicke said. "We're playing a game now. I don't care what happened in the past. We know where we are. We're here to win games today. That's all we're worried about."