Nationals run into tough Sabathia

Nationals run into tough Sabathia

MILWAUKEE -- The Nationals were on a high for seven games entering Friday night, having averaged six runs per game during that stretch. But leave it to Brewers left-hander CC Sabathia to burst their bubble.

Sabathia pitched his fourth complete game as a member of the Brewers, who blanked the Nationals, 5-0, at Miller Park. It was the 16th time in which Washington has been shut out this season.

Sabathia gave up five hits and was never in any serious trouble in the game. The only time the Nationals threatened to score a run was in the seventh inning. They had runners on first and second with two outs, but Ronnie Belliard grounded into a force play to end the threat. It was the case of Washington tipping its caps to a guy who is the hottest pitcher in baseball.

"He's good. There is a reason why the Brewers got him," manager Manny Acta said of Sabathia. "A lot of people sitting at home probably see this guy as a left-handed J.R. Richard who blows people away. This guy can pitch. He has a real good slider, a real good changeup. He can mix his pitches real good."

Cristian Guzman, Willie Harris and Austin Kearns faced Sabathia when he was with the Indians. Back then, Sabathia was throwing nothing but gas, but they saw a different pitcher on Friday.

"What's a little different is his changeup," Guzman said. "Over in the American League, he didn't throw it too much. You can see that he throws it a lot. The changeup is very good. The changeup comes in the middle and away. The guy throws 94 mph with a breaking ball."

Kearns said that Sabathia has become a pitcher and is not trying to the blow the fastball by hitters anymore.

"He was on the corners," Kearns said. "He wasn't leaving anything in the middle of the plate. He was changing speeds. He wasn't trying to blow 97 [mph] by everybody. It was good location. It's one of those nights."

Harris said Sabathia didn't throw him one ball during his three at-bats.

"Every pitch I saw today was a strike," Harris said. "When I saw him in the American League, he was throwing gas. Somebody taught him how to pitch. He won the Cy Young throwing the ball like that. He is a good pitcher. You can't take anything away from him."

Right-hander Collin Balester gave up four runs -- three earned -- in five innings for the Nationals. Balester had just two clean innings -- the fourth and fifth frames.

It was in the first three innings in which the Brewers did most of their damage. Rickie Weeks started the first inning with a walk and went to second on a wild pitch. Ryan Braun then hit a ground ball to third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. It appeared that Zimmerman tagged Weeks out while throwing Braun out for the double play. But third-base umpire Marty Foster said that Zimmerman missed Weeks and recorded only one out. Acta argued for a few minutes, but the play stood.

"I thought I tagged him," Zimmerman said. "I obviously continued to throw the ball to first like I tagged him. He was right there, but I'm not going to comment on what the umpire thinks. He thought he was safe and I thought I got him. He was out from me to you. It was hard to miss him."

Things went downhill after that. Weeks came home on a single by Prince Fielder. An inning later, Mike Cameron hit a solo home run.

In the third, J.J. Hardy came home on a wild pitch by Balester, while Ryan Braun touched home plate on a sacrifice fly by Corey Hart.

"The first couple of innings, I was trying to do too much, and you can't pitch that way," Balester said. "I was flying open. I started focusing on keeping my front side close and start throwing quality strikes. I was a little bit up in the zone, and you can't pitch that way."

Milwaukee scored its last run in the seventh inning, when Hardy hit a home run off Jesus Colome.

Balester said he could learn a lot by watching a pitcher like Sabathia.

"He's a great pitcher. He goes in there night in and night out and goes the distance every single time, it seems like," Balester said. "He has mastered the quality pitches and throw down in the zone with first-pitch strikes. That's what I want to do. I have a long way to go, and he is just a great pitcher."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.