Opposite dugout: Brewers still searching for improvement in tough division

Manager: Craig Counsell (2nd season)


Record: 32-40

Last 10 games: 3-7

Who to watch: LF Ryan Braun (.320 average, 12 HR, 38 RBIs); 1B Chris Carter (18 HR, 44 RBIs); SS Jonathan Villar (76 hits, 25 SB); C Jonathan Lucroy (.305 average, 74 hits); SP Junior Guerra (4-1, 3.67 ERA); CL Jeremy Jeffress (2.84 ERA, 19 saves).

Season series vs. Nationals: First meeting (3-4 in 2015)

Pitching probables:

June 24: RHP Max Scherzer vs. RHP Zach Davies, 8:05 p.m., MASN2
June 25: LHP Gio Gonzalez vs. RHP Matt Garza, 4:05 p.m., MASN2
June 26: RHP Stephen Strasburg vs. RHP Jimmy Nelson, 2:10 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Brewers:

For the most part in baseball, teams hovering around the .500 mark feature a unit that is overachieving mixed with another unit that hasn't quite lived up to expectations. A team lacking a shutdown rotation seems to boast a powerful lineup that helps make up for woes on the mound. Conversely, a team that has a dominant pitching staff can sometimes fail to post as many wins as they would like due to an anemic offense.

The 2016 Brewers, however, don't seem to fall into that stereotype. Glancing at their statistics, it doesn't take long to notice this ballclub is just about average in nearly every category. Offensively, the Brewers rank 18th in team average (.248), 18th in home runs (76) and 23rd in runs scored (291). From a pitching standpoint, the team sits 24th in team ERA (4.53), 24th in strikeouts (530) and 27th in batting average against (.271). Heck, even the team's records against its divisional foes in the stacked NL Central screams mediocrity. The Brewers are 2-3 against the Cubs, 4-3 against the Reds, 1-2 against the Pirates and 2-4 against the Cardinals.

Still, despite the so-so numbers, the Brewers do have plenty of talent on their roster. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy is one of the more productive backstops in baseball, batting .305 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs. He's also tied for second on the team in hits with 74. The man he's tied with? He's having a decent year, too. Along with his 74 hits, outfielder Ryan Braun is hitting an impressive .320 and has clubbed 12 home runs. Shortstop Jonathan Villar is a nice young talent at only 25 years old, hitting .292 with 76 hits. Nationals pitchers will have to keep an eye on Villar on the basepaths, too, as his 25 stolen bases are tops in the majors.

The starting rotation will send out a trio of right-handers for the three-game series. Zach Davies will start the opener against Nationals ace Max Scherzer on Friday, and while the 23-year-old Davies doesn't have quite the resume of Scherzer, it's been a solid couple of months for the Brewers starter. After losing his first three decisions, Davies turned a corner and has improved his record to 5-3. He has won his last five decisions, and has pitched at least six innings in his last four starts. Longtime veteran Matt Garza will make just his third start of the season on Saturday. Garza hadn't played until this month as the 32-year-old dealt with back issues. In his two starts since coming off of the disabled list, Garza has yet to reach a decision, but has allowed just one earned run in 10 innings of work. The series finale will feature right-hander Jimmy Nelson against Stephen Strasburg. Nelson has been scuffling along this season, posting a 5-6 record but a decent 3.80 ERA. He's lost three straight decisions this month, however, and hasn't lasted more than six innings in any of his June starts.

If there's a bit of a bright spot for the Brewers, it comes in the form of closer Jeremy Jeffress. Jeffress is tied for seventh in the major leagues with 19 saves, and had converted seven straight saves until his last appearance on June 17. In that game, Jeffress allowed the game-winning run in the 10th inning for the Dodgers in a 3-2 loss. In addition to Jeffress, the Brewers' bullpen boasts Tyler Thornburg, who is 3-2 with a 2.93 ERA and reliever Michael Blazek, who is 3-1 on the year.

It's hard to imagine the Brewers making their way into the postseason, particularly in the division with the Cubs and Cardinals. Still, the team has some talent across the board and will hope to take advantage of a struggling Nationals squad that has lost five straight games.

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