Nationals-Brewers preview

BY foxsports • June 25, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- Gio Gonzalez will attempt to snap the Washington Nationals' season-high six-game losing streak Saturday afternoon when he takes on Matt Garza and the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

Like the Nationals of late, Gonzalez (3-6, 4.25 ERA) has struggled during the month of June, going 0-3 with a 5.84 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP after starting the season with a 1.86 ERA in his first eight starts.

Gonzalez has a history of success against NL Central teams, going 15-7 with a 2.87 ERA in 36 career starts; he's made two against Milwaukee, going 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA, but hasn't pitched at Miller Park since the 2014 campaign.

The Nationals, who struck out 16 times Friday night, are playing with a sense of added urgency. Their loss to the Brewers shrunk their lead in the NL East to three games against the Mets, who come to Washington Monday for a three-game showdown.

"It's dwindling but it's up to us to maintain it or increase our lead," manager Dusty Baker said. "We definitely need these two games here before we get to the Mets because you know we'll see some good pitching when we get there."

Garza (0-0, 0.90 ERA), meanwhile, will be making his third start of the season.

He began the year on the disabled list after straining his right lat muscle during his final exhibition start. He's only allowed one run through his first two outings, spanning 10 innings of work, while giving up 13 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts.

Garza threw six shutout innings his last time out but took a no-decision as the Brewers fell to the Dodgers, 2-1.

"He was really good," manager Craig Counsell said. "I thought Matt made pitches when he had to. His fastball up-and-in was really effective today. His first two starts have been very encouraging."

He'll be looking for his first career victory against the National. In eight previous attempts, he's gone 0-4 with a 7.17 ERA including 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in two appearances last season.

The Brewers should get a boost as left-fielder Ryan Braun is expected to return to the lineup Saturday. He was given the day off Friday, as Counsell tries to keep Braun as fresh as possible following offseason back surgery.

"We want to use this stretch of the schedule as a place where we can get guys a little bit of extra rest," Counsell said. "We had three off-days in eight days, so this (was) Ryan's day to get it."

Milwaukee is in the midst of a brutal stretch of scheduling. The Brewers 12 of their last 14 games have come against the Giants, Dodgers, and Nationals -- all of whom lead or are in second place in their divisions -- with rematches against the Dodgers and Nationals and two series against the Cardinals leading into the All-Star break.

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