(Updated: UPDATES Milwaukee’s standing in division in fourth sentence.)
The Washington Nationals are streaking toward another postseason berth, while the host Milwaukee Brewers are fighting tooth and nail to make up their deficits as the teams begin a big four-game series at Miller Park on Thursday. The Nationals have won four in a row to increase their commanding lead in the National League East to 15 games with 30 to play.
Stephen Strasburg was the hero in Wednesday’s 4-0 win over Miami, tossing a shutout while smacking his second home run of the year to lead his team to its 10th victory in 14 games. The Brewers are 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and three games behind Colorado for the second wild card after hanging on for a 6-5 win over St. Louis on Wednesday. The series opener features a matchup with two of the hotter pitchers in the NL, with Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez opposing Zach Davies for the Brewers. Both hurlers have seven quality starts in their last eight outings.
TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, MASN2 (Washington), FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Nationals LH Gio Gonzalez (13-5, 2.40 ERA) vs. Brewers RH Zach Davies (15-7, 3.91)
The Nationals have won each of Gonzalez’s last six starts and he has victories in five consecutive outings while posting a 0.79 ERA. He was a tad more human in his win over the New York Mets on Saturday, allowing two runs for the first time in a month and striking out a season low-tying two. The 31-year-old gave up two runs in seven strong frames against Milwaukee on July 26 at home, but he has a 6.00 ERA in three career starts at Miller Park.
Davies was dominant against the best team in the majors Saturday at Dodger Stadium, holding Los Angeles to three hits and fanning seven in seven scoreless innings. He posted a similar line at Washington on July 25, when he yielded three hits across 7 2/3 scoreless of an 8-0 victory. The 24-year-old, who has gone 32 1/3 innings in August without allowing a home run, is 2-0 with a 2.33 ERA in three career starts against the Nationals.
1. Washington’s starters have a 2.23 ERA in their last 21 games.
2. Brewers 2B Jonathan Villar slugged a two-run homer Wednesday and is 8-for-18 over his last six games.
3. Nationals INF Wilmer Difo is batting .394 during an eight-game hitting streak.
PREDICTION: Nationals 4, Brewers 3