WASHINGTON -- One day after the Brewers benefited from a pesky sunshine at Nationals Park that made routine fly balls a devilish chore, the tables were turned.
After playing evenly matched baseball early on Monday afternoon, center fielder Carlos Gomez lost a normally easy fly ball in the sun as part of a six-run Nationals fourth inning that ended Marco Estrada's day in a 12-2 loss in the series finale.
The Brewers earned a split with the Nats in their four-game series, but Milwaukee fell 3 1/2 games back in the race for the final National League Wild Card spot.
"Really, the fly ball in the sun was the difference," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "It helped us [on Sunday] on a couple of balls, and they got five runs because of it today. It would've been a good game; if that ball's caught, it's still a 2-1 game. We gave them a run in the first, but it would've been a good ballgame."
In front of 25,302, the Nationals scored first when Bryce Harper advanced home on a throwing error by catcher Jonathan Lucroy on a steal of third base. But on the first pitch of the second, Corey Hart lined a fastball from Nats right-hander Jordan Zimmermann over the wall in right-center. Three batters later, Jean Segura tripled but was left stranded.
The score remained tied at 1 until the fourth, when Estrada's outing collapsed. Despite a balk that put Danny Espinosa on third following a double, Estrada was able to get two outs before the Nats did their damage. The second out came after a Roger Bernadina ground ball nabbed Espinosa at home. Kurt Suzuki singled to advance Bernadina to second, and Zimmermann followed suit to score Bernadina. The Nats' starter finished 2-for-3 with a pair of singles.
"I threw a curveball, left it way up there, and [Zimmermann] just made contact and hit the ball well, actually, and scored a run," Estrada said. "I can't let stuff like that happen, especially with the pitcher up there."
With runners on the corners and two outs, Jayson Werth knocked a high fly ball to center field. One day after Washington's outfielders dropped two balls after losing them in the sun, Gomez suffered the same misfortune, losing the ball in the sun before appearing to find it, but a diving attempt to his left only served to knock the ball down. Suzuki and Zimmermann both scored, putting the Nats ahead, 4-1.
"It's really tough when it gets up in the sun like that," Gomez said. "There's nothing you can do. Either the ball hits you or you let it drop."
Two batters later, Ryan Zimmerman slapped a three-run homer on an 0-1 pitch from Estrada just over the center-field fence for a 7-1 lead.
Travis Ishikawa pinch-hit for Estrada in the top of the fifth, ending Estrada's day with seven runs (six earned) allowed on eight hits over four innings
"It felt like it was a blink of an eye," Estrada said of the Nats' surge. "I looked up, the score was 2-1. I was like, 'Alright, let's get this next guy out. Pop fly, next thing you know it's 7-1 and I couldn't believe it. It just happened really quick. It just [stinks], but that's the name of the game, I guess."
Zimmermann, meanwhile was sharp for the Nats, allowing just the one run on four hits over 6 2/3 innings. He also struck out seven batters while walking two.
"I was throwing the fastball and getting ahead, and when I do that, I feel like I can control the game," Zimmermann said. "I'm glad I'm having a few good ones here as the regular season is coming to a close. I feel if I stay on my fastball, I'll be able to throw what I want. I'm not going to be walking guys."
Washington added two more runs in the fifth on a double by Suzuki, and Zimmerman capped his day with an RBI single in a three-run Washington eighth.
After their two hits in the second, the Brewers didn't threaten again until the eighth. With two outs, Ryan Braun slapped a bloop single out of the reach of second baseman Espinosa in short right field before scoring on an Aramis Ramirez double. Ramirez became the second player in franchise history with 50 doubles in a season, joining Lyle Overbay, who hit 53 in 2004.
From here, the Brewers travel to Cincinnati for a three-game set with the Reds beginning on Tuesday. With no off-days remaining and several key players -- Corey Hart and Ryan Braun, to name a couple -- playing through various ailments, Milwaukee has no choice but to power forward with a positive outlook.
After all, the Brewers have played their way back into contention with a MLB-best 16-6 record in September and a broader streak of 25 wins in 33 games.
"This is just a little bump in the road, it's not a big deal," Estrada said. "I still feel like we're going to get this done. After Cincinnati, I think we play Houston and San Diego, so we've just got to keep winning ballgames, and we can't really worry about what other teams are doing."
Mike Fiammetta is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.