The Nationals (4-5) return home tonight to take on the Milwaukee Brewers (4-5). The Nationals look to improve upon what has been a poor performance against the "Brew Crew" the last three seasons, posting a 7-15 record vs. Milwaukee from 2007-09. This season, though, may be different. Both teams will enter tonight's game with a record of 4-5 and the winner of the series will end up at .500 with a sweep putting either team a game above that mark.
The Nationals just finished a series with the reigning NCLS champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, in which they were able to squeak out a win in the series finale on the back of a solid debut by Scott Olsen. The Nationals are already one win away from their overall total against Philly last season (3) and will be relieved to know that the former World Series Champions will not be on the schedule again until July 30th. The series against Brewers will mark the beginning of a 10-game homestand that will include games against Milwaukee, Colorado, and the L.A. Dodgers.
The Brewers on the other hand are a team who enter the season the rebound. The club is trying to recover from a 2009 season that saw them finish with a disappointing losing record of 80-82. Just one year earlier, in 2008, Milwaukee had made the playoffs for the first time in 26 years by claiming the wild-card with a 90-72 record. With back-to-back winning seasons under their belt, and a bevy of young talent, the Brewers hoped to improve in 2009 but stalled with injuries and poor play from youngsters.
BREWERS LAST SERIES
The Brewers are coming off a series against the Cubs in Chicago in which they won one of three. Their bats were alive for much of the series, as they scored 19 runs, but their pitching was weak at times allowing the Cubs to outscore them with 22 runs. The biggest culprits were Doug Davis (6 ER in 3.1 IP) and Latroy Hawkins (4 ER and a BS). The bullpen was also taxed quite a bit, having to pitch 10.2 innings, though the Nationals pen put in more work with 13.2 innings pitched.
Ryan Braun (LF): 7/14, 4 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI
Casey McGehee (3B): .333 AVG, 8 RBI, 3 HR for the season
Carlos Villanueva (RP): 3.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO
Prince Fielder (1B): 4/12, 5 LOB, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Jim Edmonds (CF): 3/9, 9 LOB, 3 SO, 0 RBI
Friday - Yovanni Gallardo (0-2, 6.75) vs. John Lannan (1-1, 8.31)
Saturday - Randy Wolf (1-0, 4.05) vs. Livan Hernandez (1-0, 0.00)
Sunday - Doug Davis (0-1, 12.27) vs. Jason Marquis (0-2, 12.96)
A TEAM OF THIEVES
Last season, the Nationals ended the 2009 campaign with 73 stolen bases as a team. Entering tonight's game, the team already has 1/7 of last year's total with 11 stolen bases and lead the National League in that category. The team had seven stolen bags in the the last Phillies series alone and even got some surprise swipes by Pudge and Willingham, in addition to an attempt by Dunn which was negated by a foul ball. Jim Riggleman is much more willing to pull the trigger than his predeccesor, Manny Acta, was, but he is also aided by the additions of guys like Nyger Morgan and Ian Desmond to the line-up. In addition, the team has an arsenal of other speedy outfielders, such as Willy Taveras, Justin Maxwell, and Willie Harris, who are threats to run anytime they are on base. The extra speed means many different things for the team, but most importantly it means more runners in scoring position and more guys that can make it from first to third on hit and runs and balls knocked to the outfield. Look for Riggleman to continue to put up the green light for these guys in the Brewers series in an attempt to better position baserunners and keep the opposing pitchers off-guard.
The Nationals sent down Roger Bernadina this week in order to call up Justin Maxwell due to the string of left-handed pitchers that are about to come through D.C. in the coming week. In the next five games alone, the Nationals will face three lefties in Doug Davis, Randy Wolf, and Jorge De La Rosa. This means that Willy Taveras, Ian Desmond, and Justin Maxwell will see more time this week at the expense of LHB Adam Kennedy and Willie Harris. Two Nationals in particular, Josh Willingham (.429/.500/.929) and Ivan Rodriguez (.400/.500/.600) have been killing lefties so far this season, though the sample size is still quite small.