Manager: Craig Counsell (4th year)
Last 10 games: 2-8
Who to watch: LF Christian Yelich (.303 with 12 HR, 47 RBIs), 1B Jesús Aguilar (.293 with 25 HR, 71 RBIs), CF Lorenzo Cain (.293/.391/.421 with 18 SB), RHP Jhoulys Chacin (8-3, 3.68 ERA), LHP Josh Hader (1.44 ERA, 93 Ks), RHP Corey Knebel (12 saves)
Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (4-3 in 2017)
July 23: LHP Gio Gonzalez (6-6) vs. RHP Jhoulys Chacin (8-3), 8:10 p.m., MASN2
July 24: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (4-1) vs. Junior Guerra (6-6), 8:10 p.m., MASN2
July 25: RHP Tanner Roark (3-12) vs. LHP Wade Miley (1-1), 2:10 p.m., MASN
Inside the Brewers:
It’s been a mostly fun season in Milwaukee, where the Brewers have been delighting fans with enough offense to send Bernie the Brewer sliding down his chute with regularity. That’s what happens when you have an effective offense, a shutdown bullpen and five All-Stars. Even though the Brew Crew was swept in five games before the break by the Pirates, and has lost nine of 11, they’re still in second place in the National League Central, and can make things uncomfortable for the front-running Cubs. It’s not a surprise that the Brewers are positioning themselves as buyers at the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline. They’d like to add some pop to their lineup, which leads the majors in stolen bases, and a starting pitcher to fortify their injury-depleted rotation.
Statistically speaking, the Brewers bats are in the middle of the pack in most offensive categories, but they do possess the ability to get on base and run into some fastballs. What the Brewers lineup lacks in name recognition and star power, it makes up for in production. A trio of All-Stars - left fielder Christian Yelich, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and first baseman Jesús Aguilar - have been doing a lot of the damage (and helping compensate for injuries to sluggers Ryan Braun, who just came off the disabled list, and Eric Thames). Aguilar leads the team with 25 homers and 71 RBIs - not bad for a guy who was a depth piece at the start of the season until injuries created a path to the lineup. Yelich is hitting .358/.403/.537 in July and Cain is slashing .293/.391/.421 with 18 stolen bases. Third baseman Travis Shaw has chipped in 18 homers and 57 RBIs. What the Brewers lineup lacks in name recognition and starpower, it makes up for in production.
Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who draws the starting assignment in tonight’s opener, was an under-the-radar free agent signing in the offseason. He’s tied for the team lead in victories and has limited opponents to a .232 batting average this season. In eight career starts against the Nats, he’s 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA. Junior Guerra starts Tuesday night, and will be looking to win his fourth decision in five starts. His last outing was a forgettable one: The right-hander allowed six runs on nine hits in four innings on July 13 at Pittsburgh. IN two career games (one start) against the Nats, he’s 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA. Veteran left-hander Wade Miley will get the nod in Wednesday afternoon’s finale. An oblique strain has limited him to four starts this season, and he’s produced a 1.56 ERA in limited action. So far, he’s yet to yield a home run in 17 1/3 innings, but has issued 11 walks to 11 strikeouts. Miley has made eight lifetimes starts versus Washington and has a 3-2 record and 3.74 ERA in those outings.
The bullpen has been a strength for the Brewers. When closer Corey Knebel went down with a hamstring problem, lefty Josh Hader (93 strikeouts in 50 innings) and righty Jeremy Jeffress (1.34 ERA) filled in ably. Now that Knebel - who has 12 saves in 15 opportunities - is back from a hamstring issue, they form a formidable setup tandem. Hader is dealing with the fallout after years-old insensitive tweets surfaced while he was pitching in the All-Star Game.