Nelson picks up 'pen by going the distance

Right-hander throws Brewers' first complete game since July 2015

Nelson picks up 'pen by going the distance

MILWAUKEE -- A complete game is rare enough. A Brewers pitcher hadn't thrown one since Taylor Jungmann's Dodger Stadium dandy in July 2015. The home fans hadn't cheered one at Miller Park since Kyle Lohse went the distance against the Reds in September 2014.

But it was the context that made Jimmy Nelson's Father's Day gem something special. Nelson surrendered a lone unearned run while pitching all nine innings of Sunday's 2-1 win over the Padres, a six-hit, two-walk, 10-strikeout beauty that gave Brewers manager Craig Counsell a break from the team's bullpen issues.

"This is how you hope the games work," Counsell said. "This is a team. This is a guy picking everybody up."

Nelson strikes out Aybar

Counsell knew going into the rubber match of the three-game set against San Diego that he would be without closer Corey Knebel and setup men Jared Hughes and Oliver Drake. Knebel and Hughes had pitched each of the past two days, and Drake the past three. Counsell also wanted to stay away from Jacob Barnes, who threw 29 pitches on Friday and entered the day tied with teammates Knebel and Carlos Torres, Pirates reliever Felipe Rivero and Mets reliever Jerry Blevins for the most appearances in the Major Leagues.

Outside of those options, Counsell had Torres, whose struggles continued in Saturday's extra-inning loss, and three players who began this season as starters: Wily Peralta, Josh Hader and Paolo Espino.

"I can't imagine having to throw every day like those guys. It was definitely nice to get those guys a day," Nelson said. "They were really helping the starters out the first month of the season, so being able to give those guys a blow was nice."

Nelson heaped praise on a defense that turned two more double plays and leads the Majors with 195 this season, and catcher Manny Pina. Not for Pina's go-ahead home run in the sixth inning, but for Pina's work behind the plate.

Pina's solo home run

Take the eighth inning. Nelson started the frame at 96 pitches and was working against the heart of the Padres' lineup for the fourth time. After Wil Myers singled, Yangervis Solarte hit a first pitch changeup deep to right field, but foul. Nelson followed with successive four-seam fastballs, one a ball and the other a strike, before Pina visited the mound.

Nelson then escaped by inducing the second of those double-play grounders.

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"He saw something that I didn't," Nelson said. "We did it, and sure enough … we got him out. That's one thing -- the pitcher-catcher relationship is important. It's good that he saw it."

Said Pina: "Early in the game, he was kind of struggling with commanding the fastball. A lot of 1-0, 2-0, 3-0. But after the fifth, he was commanding his fastball and breaking ball really good, and that's why he could finish the game. We didn't need a reliever today."

The Brewers rode Nelson's right arm to their first series win at home since sweeping the Mets from May 12-14 and remained 2 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Cubs in the National League Central.

"We didn't really muster many opportunities against Jimmy Nelson today," Padres manager Andy Green said. "I thought he was good. He mixed well. I thought he had some erratic command early but really locked in as the game went on."

Nelson earned a roar from the holiday crowd of 34,518 when he became the first Brewers starter to step on the mound in the ninth inning this season. In 12 pitches, he retired the side in order with his ninth and 10th strikeouts, giving Nelson his third double-digit strikeout game in his last five outings.

"It's really nice. I think I've gotten seven-plus [innings], eight a couple of times," Nelson said. "That ninth inning is a big inning."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.