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Nelson, Shaw power Brewers past Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera (37) can't get ball hit by Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw (not pictured) for a solo home run in the eighth inning Saturday at Miller Park. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

The Sports Xchange

MILWAUKEE — After the Milwaukee Brewers closed out the first half with victories in six of their last seven games, some wondered if the four-day All-Star break might stunt the team’s momentum as the National League Central leader.

Two games into the second half, it doesn’t look like the layoff seemed to matter.

Jimmy Nelson struck out nine batters and Travis Shaw hit a tiebreaking home run in the eighth inning as the Brewers rallied late for a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, preserving their 5 1/2-game lead in the NL Central in front of 29,293 fans at Miller Park.

“We had a lot of momentum going into the break, and for us to be able to take a few days off, then come back and continue that momentum is huge,” Nelson said. “Especially for a younger team.

“We’re playing with a lot of energy, and who knows what can happen? Who knows what we can do, especially with momentum.”

Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola appeared to be the biggest threat to the Brewers’ momentum early on. He kept Milwaukee off the board through the first four innings despite allowing four hits and getting four strikeouts.

Ty Kelly provided a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly in the top of the fifth and Nola retired his first two batters in the bottom of the inning before Jonathan Villar reached on a base hit before taking second on a stolen base.

Eric Thames followed and Nola hung him a slider right over the middle up the plate that Thames crushed off the wall in center, scoring Villar and tying the score at 1.

“I looked at it on the video, it was just down the middle,” Nola said.

He got out of the inning without any further damage but gave up a solo home run to Hernan Perez to open the sixth. Nola got out of that inning with two strikeouts to wrap up an otherwise solid night of work.

“Nola pitched very well,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “You hold this team to two runs over six innings, you’ve done a good job.”

Nelson had kept the Phillies at bay after Kelly’s RBI and retired six in a row before Odubel Herrera tied the score at 2 in the seventh with his eighth home run of the season.

Pat Neshek struck out the side in the seventh, preserving the tie, and Philadelphia had a golden opportunity in the eighth when Jacob Barnes issued one-out walks to pinch hitter Brock Stassi and Daniel Nava but came up empty when Freddy Galvis lined out to the second baseman Villar, who doubled Stassi off second to end the inning.

“You’re supposed to freeze on a line drive,” Mackanin said. “He didn’t freeze. You don’t get doubled up there.

“Those little things don’t show up when you get 12 hits and score runs day in and day out but when you don’t score a lot of runs, those things look bigger than they really are.”

It would prove a costly mistake as Travis Shaw sent Jaquin Benoit’s second pitch of the eighth over the wall in center for his 20th home run of the season, putting the Brewers ahead.

“That’s a big spot, for sure,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Jacob got that line drive to get out of it. It was a tight game and the back of their bullpen has been pretty effective.

“I know they’ve struggled as a team, but the back of their bullpen is effective. Neshek had a great inning. He was tough. Benoit is a veteran that’s been doing it really well for a long time. Travis is locked in. Consistent is the right word for it, that’s for sure.”

Philadelphia had one more chance in the ninth, getting a two-out double from Herrera, but Corey Knebel struck out Cameron Rupp to end it and notch his 16th save of the year.

CREW CUTS: LF Ryan Braun was in the lineup again, but Brewers manager Craig Counsell said the veteran is day to day for the remainder of the season thanks to a nagging injury to his left calf that left him on the disabled list for nearly a month. ... Phillies OF Aaron Altherr was unavailable suffering a mild strain of his right ankle a day earlier. Manager Pete Mackanin was optimistic that Altherr, batting .288 this season, would only need a couple days to recover. ... The Phillies expect to get INF Cesar Hernandez back from a minor league rehab assignment next week when they travel to Miami. RHP Vince Velasquez, out since May 31 with a strained flexor in his right elbow, will likely be activated from the disabled list and start the series opener Monday.