MILWAUKEE (AP) — Brian Anderson noticed Jimmy Nelson was struggling with his breaking ball, and he took advantage.
Anderson hit his first career grand slam, Sandy Alcántara pitched seven crisp innings and the Miami Marlins spoiled Nelson’s return to the majors, beating the Milwaukee Brewers 8-3 on Wednesday night.
Starlin Castro and Bryan Holaday each drove in two runs as the surging Marlins earned their fourth straight victory. Curtis Granderson had two hits and scored twice in his first multihit game since May 24.
Nelson lasted just three innings in his first big league start in 21 months. The right-hander was cheered loudly when he was introduced with the starting lineup and then received another big ovation from the Miller Park crowd of 26,615 when he went out to the mound for the first.
Nelson, who turned 30 on Wednesday, was working on a breakout season in 2017 when he injured his pitching shoulder diving back to first after rounding the base on a single. He had surgery and missed last year, when Milwaukee won the division title and made it to the NL Championship Series.
“The reception from the fans and the excitement of all the teammates and staff here the last day or two is something I’ll always remember and always appreciate,” Nelson said. “That was the best moment of the day, obviously.”
The last-place Marlins have outscored the Brewers 24-3 through the first two games of the series. Miami has won seven of nine and 13 of 18 overall.
“I just think we’re playing with a little bit of confidence right now. Up and down the order we’re getting production,” manager Don Mattingly said. “Guys are taking their walks. I just feel like we’re keeping the line moving right now and putting the ball in play.”
Orlando Arcia had a run-scoring double in the second and Yasmani Grandal connected for a two-run homer in the ninth, but that was it for Milwaukee.
Grandal also tried to score on Arcia’s tying double to center, but he was cut down at the plate on a nice relay by shortstop Miguel Rojas. He was originally ruled safe, but the call was overturned by a replay review.
Miami also got a big defensive play in the first when Harold Ramirez robbed Lorenzo Cain of a homer with a leaping grab at the wall in right.
The Marlins went ahead to stay in the third. Nelson (0-1) issued a leadoff walk to Alcántara that proved costly. Granderson followed with a single and Garrett Cooper walked before Anderson drove Nelson’s next pitch over the wall in center for his seventh homer.
Anderson said he could see Nelson was struggling with his breaking ball.
“For me, it was a good chance to look for a fastball, look for something out over the plate to drive,” he said. “Even if I don’t hit a double or a homer, it’s something that goes in the outfield and can get a run in on. (Nelson) left it kind of middle for me and I was able to take advantage of it.”
Nelson was charged with five runs, four earned, and four hits in his first big league start since Sept. 8, 2017. He struck out two and walked three.
“We all applaud him for the work he’s put in,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He’s disappointed with how it went tonight but you have to keep getting back up. He’s fought this fight for a long time now. He has to keep getting up, keep getting better and he’ll do that.”
Alcántara permitted five hits, struck out five and walked one in his first win since he tossed a two-hitter in a 3-0 victory over the New York Mets on May 19. The right-hander pitched six scoreless innings in a no-decision against San Francisco in his previous start.
Brewers: Cain departed in the ninth because of a jammed right thumb. He said he plans to play Thursday. … RHP Jhoulys Chacín, who was placed on the 10-day injured list Sunday with a lower-back strain, played catch Wednesday. “That went well, so we’re in better shape there,” Counsell said. “We’ll probably wait for another throwing session before we plot that case moving forward.” … LHP Gio González (shoulder fatigue) might try some light-tossing Thursday.
Brewers right-hander Freddy Peralta (2-2, 5.68 ERA) faces left-hander Caleb Smith (3-3, 3.10 ERA) in the finale of three-game series Thursday afternoon. Peralta, who turned 23 on Tuesday, is making his first start since May 13. Smith is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his last four starts.
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