MILWAUKEE (AP) — Mark Canha had one thing on his mind Saturday night when he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning of a tie game.
“I told myself to just let it rip,” Canha said.
Canha delivered a first-pitch grand slam off Kyle Finnegan to help the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Washington Nationals 9-5 and move a step closer to an NL Central title on Saturday night.
“Hitting grand slams is cool,” said Canha, whose five RBIs tied his career high. “To do it in that moment, when we needed a run desperately just to pick your team up, and hear the crowd’s reaction — we had an awesome crowd tonight — all things considered, it was pretty special.”
The Brewers bounced back after blowing a four-run lead and won for the 13th time in their last 15 home games. They lead the NL Central by 6 1/2 games over the Chicago Cubs, who lost 7-6 to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 13 innings later Saturday night.
Washington had tied the game on Jake Alu’s two-out bloop hit off Joel Payamps (6-4) in the top of the eighth after trailing 5-1 in the sixth against All-Star Corbin Burnes.
The Brewers responded in the bottom half of the inning against Finnegan, who was pitching for the first time in a week.
“He’s the backbone of that bullpen over there,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “We had our best guy out there, no doubt about it. Hopefully we’ll have a lead tomorrow, I’ll put him back out there in the ninth and we’ll go from there.”
Tyrone Taylor started the Brewers’ eighth-inning rally with a one-out double. Sal Frelick followed with an infield single, though shortstop CJ Abrams’ diving stop prevented Taylor from advancing. One out later, Carlos Santana fell behind 1-2 in the count before working his way to a walk that loaded the bases.
That set the stage for Canha to deliver a 411-foot drive into the left-field stands. Canha is batting .313 with a .397 on-base percentage, five homers and 26 RBIs in 38 games since the Brewers acquired him from the New York Mets at the trade deadline.
“He’s played incredibly since we acquired him,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He’s been outstanding, great in every facet for sure. He’s on a good run. He’s in a good place. It’s been a big deal for us, what he’s added offensively.”
Canha’s second career grand slam came on a splitter from Finnegan.
“The split’s been good,” Martinez said. “It has been good. At that point, he knows what he wants to do. He just didn’t get the ball down.”
Taylor also homered for Milwaukee. Frelick and Canha each went 3 for 5.
Luis García hit a solo shot and Joey Meneses went 3 for 5 for Washington.
Burnes was making his first appearance since pitching eight innings of no-hit ball Sunday in a game the Brewers eventually lost 4-3 to the New York Yankees in 13 innings. After breezing for much of the night, Burnes allowed three runs, three hits and three walks in the sixth as the Nationals got back into the game.
Meneses and Carter Kieboom hit two-out RBI singles to cut Milwaukee’s lead to 5-3, then García drew a bases-loaded walk to get the Nationals within one run.
“I think stuff-wise it was as good as it was last time around,” Burnes said. “We just couldn’t put them away there in the sixth.”
Washington’s tying rally in the eighth began with Meneses’ leadoff single. Michael Chavis, who pinch-ran for Meneses, advanced to third on García’s two-out single to right and scored on Alu’s single to left.
That left it up to Canha to bail the Brewers with his dramatic swing.
“I think that’s the moment that hitters live for,” Burnes said. “Bottom of the eighth, bases loaded, two outs. To hit the game-winning grand slam like that, I’ve never done anything that cool in my career.”
Brewers OF Christian Yelich, who had missed six straight games with a sore lower back before returning Friday night, was out of the starting lineup again Saturday. “Essentially, just watching him play yesterday and talking to him this afternoon when he came in, I just don’t think we’re at 100% yet,” Counsell said before the game. “I think we should wait till we get there. And so we’ll see when that is. I’m hopeful and optimistic that it’s soon. We didn’t see it yesterday, and so we’ll just play it day by day from here on out.”
RHP Patrick Corbin (10-13, 5.13 ERA) starts for Washington and RHP Brandon Woodruff (5-1, 1.93) pitches for Milwaukee as the Brewers attempt to complete the three-game sweep.