Preview: Brewers at Nationals
The Milwaukee Brewers have had at least a share of first place in the National League Central every day since April 5, but that could change after Sunday's series finale against the host Washington Nationals. The Brewers head into the rubber match of the three-game set tied with St. Louis for the division lead, and they're hoping for a strong outing from Yovani Gallardo after Matt Garza recorded just one out in Saturday's 8-3 loss. They'll be tested again by a Washington team that has won 11 of its last 16 to move into a tie with Atlanta atop the NL East.
The Nationals pounded out 12 hits in Saturday's rout, but Adam LaRoche was the only starter without one and is mired in an 0-for-17 slump. Milwaukee reliever Will Smith was unavailable on Friday due to back spasms, but he proclaimed himself ready Saturday after receiving treatment. Smith has been a key setup man for the Brewers, who are hoping to get Jim Henderson (right shoulder) and Tyler Thornburg (right elbow) back in the bullpen over the next few weeks.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Brewers RH Yovani Gallardo (5-5, 3.68 ERA) vs. Nationals LH Gio Gonzalez (6-5, 3.56)
The All-Star break came at a good time for Gallardo, who has allowed a total of 15 runs (12 earned) in 17 1/3 innings over his last three starts. The 28-year-old is 3-2 with a 3.00 ERA in seven outings on the road this season. LaRoche is 9-for-28 with two homers against Gallardo, who is 3-3 with a 5.61 ERA in 10 career games (nine starts) against Washington - including six innings of one-run ball on June 24.
Gonzalez is starting on an extra day of rest after missing Thursday's bullpen session when one of his flights was cancelled. The 28-year-old had his three-game winning streak snapped on July 10, when he allowed four runs (three earned) over 6 2/3 innings of a 6-5 loss at Baltimore. Gonzalez, who has limited Carlos Gomez to one hit in 10 at-bats, is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three career starts against Milwaukee.
1. The Brewers are 37-19 when hitting a home run.
2. Nationals CF Denard Span has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games.
3. Milwaukee LHP Tom Gorzelanny has not allowed a run or issued a walk in 10 appearances since coming off the disabled list on June 14.
PREDICTION: Nationals 6, Brewers 2