For their last full series of July, the Washington Nationals (58-39) will travel to Milwaukee, a city filled with the ghosts of their past failures, to face the Milwaukee Brewers (44-53). Success in this city has been elusive for the Nats, as the Brewers swept them the last two times they visited Miller Park, and the Nats haven't won a game there since July 28, 2009.
The odds are in the favor of the Nationals on this trip, though, with the Nationals' offense tearing it up and the Brewers pitching staff struggling to execute. The Nationals are currently red hot on a five-game winning streak, while the Brewers are trudging through a six-game losing streak.
Poor Pitching and Crumbling Confidence
The Brewers' pitching is their weakness; their 4.25 ERA ranks 23rd among all major league teams and 13th in the National League. The brunt of that number has been bourn on the shoulders of their relievers, who win the fourth-worst bullpen of the month award with a 5.43 ERA and 0.4 WAR. At least they are consistent though, because their year total numbers are almost just as bad (4.73, 0.4). So far this season, their relievers have been credited with 25 losses and have a 1.56 WHIP, which are both the highest of all major league bullpens.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke recently called a meeting with his struggling relievers to discuss ways to help them start succeeding. Roenicke is focused on helping his 'pen regain confidence, in hopes that better performances will follow.
"Baseball's confidence," Roenicke said, according to MLB.com. "When you're at this level, they're all talented. But the guys that succeed more often are the guys that are very confident, almost to that cockiness point. They forget about the negative stuff and all they worry about is doing something good."
Their offense hasn't done much to support their stumbling pitching, with a slash line of .247/.318/.417 that ranks 21st, 19th and 11th, respectively, among major league teams. The fourth place Brewers have a -14 run differential on the year, compared to the first place Nats' +78. The Nationals have scored 109 runs (5.19 per game) in July and have a 15-7 record, while the Brewers have scored 91 (4.55 rpg) and are 9-11 for the month.
The Hype About Greinke
On Sunday the Nationals' offense will face one of the most recent hot topics in baseball: Zack Greinke. The righty and his 3.44 ERA, 122 strikeouts and 1.20 WHIP are scheduled to face off against Gio Gonzalez in the series finale and what will most likely be Greinke's last start with the Brewers, if he does not get traded before then. According to MLB.com Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin said that Greinke will definitely be traded before the Trade Deadline on Tuesday. Reports indicate that the Texas Rangers and Nationals' rivals the Atlanta Braves are interested in the 28-year-old pitcher, who Melvin has called "a difference-maker" for teams in a pennant race.
- The Nationals and the Brewers each swept each other in the two series they played last season.
- Historically, the Nats are 21-27 against the Brewers and and 6-18 at Miller Park
Aramis Ramirez (3B) .278 AVG, .344 OBP, .476 SLG, 5 HR
Corey Hart (RF) .262 AVG, .318 OBP, .489, 17 HR
Mike Fiers (SP) 1.96 ERA, 59.2 IP, 59 SO, 1.06 WHIP
Francisco Rodriguez (RP) 4.80 ERA, .285 AVG, 3 SV, 9 SVO, -- blew three saves in his last five opportunities
Jose Veras (RP) 4.87 ERA, .267 AVG, 1 SV, 2 SVO
Edwin Jackson (5-6, 3.73 ERA) vs. Yovani Gallardo (8-7, 2.30 ERA)
Ross Detwiler (5-3, 3.01 ERA) vs. Mike Fiers (3-4, 1.96 ERA)
Jordan ZImmermann (7-6, 2.31 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (3-6, 5.46 ERA)
Gio Gonzalez (13-5, 3.13 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (9-3, 3.44 ERA)