Brewers, Nats square off in clash of division leaders (Jul 25, 2017)

BY AP • July 25, 2017

WASHINGTON -- With a string of losses, the Milwaukee Brewers are in danger of undoing the good work they did in the first half of the season.

With a next-man-up mentality, the Washington Nationals continue to roll despite a string of injuries.

The two division leaders meet Tuesday in a series featuring teams that seem to be headed in opposite directions.

The reeling Brewers (53-48) have seen their National League Central lead dissipate and are just a half-game ahead of the Chicago Cubs after losing seven of their past eight.

Milwaukee will turn to Zach Davies (11-4, 4.76 ERA) for the series opener against the Nationals. The young right-hander has been the Brewers' best pitcher, and he is tied for fourth in the National League in wins.

Davies, who is 1-0 in two career starts against the Nationals, said the Brewers have not placed a greater emphasis on this series despite the worthy opponent.

"I really think it's game to game for guys," Davies told reporters. "Each guy has a great mentality in that he's not looking ahead to the next game. That's one thing to keep you in the right mindset."

The Nationals return home after an impressive 7-2 road trip through Cincinnati, Anaheim and Arizona. They will turn to well-traveled Edwin Jackson, who looks to improve on an impressive first start in his second stint with Washington. He gave up just two runs in seven innings during a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels on July 18.

Jackson (1-0, 2.57 ERA with Washington; 1-0, 4.50 overall) has faced Milwaukee 18 times in his career, going 6-7 with a 3.42 ERA in 15 starts.

"My biggest thing has always been walks, walks, walks, behind in the count and walks, and then you get a big hit," he told "I've just been trying to focus on coming out and putting an attack on hitters and make them put the ball in play."

Jackson could be a valuable addition to a team that has been hit with a spate of injuries, the latest occurring when All-Star Stephen Strasburg left his start Sunday after two innings and reliever Enny Romero sustained back spasms.

Washington has nine players on the disabled or bereavement list, forcing manager Dusty Baker to do some juggling. Still, the Nationals have the second-best record in the NL and are 12 1/2 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the East.

"You try not to think negative about anything," Baker said. "It's like, 'OK, boys, we know we've got a problem.' So the next thing is, we've got to try to figure out how to get out of the problem. You know you've got a problem, but you've got to figure out how to get out of it."

The Brewers need to figure out something fast, especially with a series against the Cubs looming after they play the Nationals. Milwaukee is hitting just .249 after the All-Star break, and its team ERA during that 10-game stretch is 4.73.

"The challenge is to be in first place after 162, not after 100," Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun said. "We've put ourselves in a good position. We have a challenging schedule ahead, and the goal remains to be in this position 62 games from now."

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