Jeff Suppan had a solid outing before giving up four unearned runs in the fifth inning after a key defensive error.
Washington's Cristian Guzman had hit what looked to be an inning-ending double play, but the ball was bobbled by shortstop J.J. Hardy, and the Nationals were on their way to a four-run inning.
"It was right around the bag, and I was just trying to be too quick with the turn," Hardy said.
Following that play, Ryan Zimmerman doubled in a run, Lastings Milledge had an RBI, and Jesus Flores batted in two to finish things off -- a hard hit to left field that was almost caught on a dive by Ryan Braun. Manager Ned Yost cited the play as evidence of Braun's improving fielding abilities.
"Man, that would've been a spectacular play," Yost said. "He almost got it."
And so Suppan left the game tagged with a loss despite throwing some of his best pitches of the season, including a slider that was heavy on movement.
"I thought I was locating the ball pretty good," he said. "Regardless of what happens in the game, I've still got to go out there and make pitches."
Suppan's final line was five runs (one earned) on three hits.
He was a big contributor at the plate, too. With two outs and Hardy on base, Suppan fell into an 0-2 count before delivering an RBI single that he dug out from below his knees.
"I was just trying to take the 0-2 approach and put the ball in play," Suppan said. "I didn't know where the pitch was. I just swung at it, and luckily there was nobody there."
As for the rest of the offense, the eight hits were spread around at no more than one per player, but they weren't in sequence, leaving baserunners stranded to end innings.
The Nationals' bullpen was a factor in making the Brewers strand runners. Four pitchers worked the final four innings, including a three-strikeout inning from Brian Sanches, who was making his season debut. Sanches threw 12 of his first 13 pitches for strikes.
Results like that are something the Milwaukee bullpen would like to emulate. During Friday's game, Tim Dillard threw his first Major League pitches, getting a strikeout and allowing no hits in one inning of work.
Dillard was called up earlier in the day to replace Eric Gagne and give the bullpen more depth, something it has been lacking recently. Suppan said that while he knows to just concentrate on his outing, it is in the back of his mind to try to last several innings to help out the relievers.
"I learned a long time ago that I've got to go out and pitch regardless," he said. "That being said, that's what I'm trying to do."
Washington also had a solo home run from Wily Mo Pena in the second, his first home run of the season. Milwaukee's first run was scored by Hardy, who logged his first stolen base of the season.
But a break was not in the cards for the Brewers on Friday, and an untimely error was all it took to end the game. Pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn ended the game with runners on second and third, hitting a popup that was foul, but stayed in play long enough for Zimmerman to catch it and end the game.
Suppan knows that there's no point in dwelling on those bounces at the beginning of a four-game series.
"We've had our ups and downs this season," he said. "We're just going to continue to fight through it."
Michael Phillips is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.