Rookie right-hander Jimmy Nelson was inefficient and ineffective Tuesday night and the San Diego Padres took advantage, scoring four runs in the first three innings and hanging on for a 4-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Petco Park.
Nelson (2-5) lost his third straight decision and was once again plagued by inefficiency, needing 93 pitches to get through just five innings, allowing four runs, two earned, on five hits with two walks. He did strike out a career-high seven.
All-Star right-hander Tyson Ross (12-12), on the other hand, kept the Brewers off-balance for most of the night, holding Milwaukee (73-59) to just a run on four hits in 6.1 innings, striking out six.
The Brewers missed a chance to gain a game on the St. Louis Cardinals in the process after the Cards lost 5-2 at Pittsburgh. Instead, St. Louis remains 1½ games in back of Milwaukee in the National League Central while the Pirates climbed back to within five games of the division lead.
San Diego (61-70) got on the board in the bottom of the first when Abraham Almonte hit his third home run of the season over the wall in right field.
The Padres then roughed up Nelson a bit in the third.
Ross led off by slashing a double down the right-field line and scored when Almonte hit a flare to right. Seth Smith hit into what could have been an inning-ending double play, but shortstop Jean Segura dropped the throw from Scooter Gennett and everyone was safe.
Jonathan Lucroy led off the top of the fourth with his major-league leading 44th double and, after Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez struck out, Gennett delivered a ground-rule double that hopped the wall in right center.
But that was the Brewers’ only run of the night.
Joaquin Benoit worked the ninth for the Padres to earn his ninth save in 10 chances after Nick Vincent got the final two outs in the seventh and Kevin Quackenbush struck out the side in the eighth, allowing a single to Segura on the way.
Marco Estrada worked two scoreless innings for the Brewers, allowing a hit and striking out two, and Tom Gorzelanny worked out of a bases loaded jam in the eighth after walking two and allowing a hit. He struck out one.
Segura had two of Milwaukee’s five hits on the night, while Carlos Gomez had a night to forget, going 0-for-4 with a hat trick of three strikeouts.
The rubber game of the three-game series is Wednesday at 8:10 p.m. Central. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo (8-7, 3.38 ERA) gets the start for the Brewers, while rookie right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne(3-5, 3.44 ERA) takes the hill for San Diego.