The Milwaukee Brewers saw their season-best six-game winning streak come to an end their last time out against one of the front-runners for the NL Cy Young Award. The Brewers, though, would appear to have the edge on the mound Sunday.
Milwaukee (78-73) had outscored opponents 34-16 while batting .319 during its run before falling 10-4 on Saturday. Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond hit three-run homers for the Nationals while Gio Gonzalez threw seven strong innings to become baseball's first 20-game winner.
While the major league-leading Nationals (92-59) have clinched a playoff berth, the Brewers are fighting for a spot in the postseason. Milwaukee dropped 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the second wild-card spot.
"I don't feel like we have to win every single game the rest of the season - I don't feel that - but I tell you what: We better win most of them or almost all of them," said manager Ron Roenicke , whose club has won 24 of 31.
The Brewers, who haven't dropped back-to-back games since Aug. 18-19, have to like their chances of staying hot behind Gallardo (16-8, 3.59 ERA).
Milwaukee has won Gallardo's last 10 starts, a stretch in which he's gone 8-0 with a 2.69 ERA.
"I think every year he's finished really strong," left fielder Ryan Braun told the Brewers' official website. "He's been our go-to guy. It's continued this year, and it's been really impressive."
Gallardo issued four walks Tuesday but went on to win 6-0 at Pittsburgh, pitching 6 2-3 innings of two-hit ball with six strikeouts.
"Yo's on a roll that he goes out there and he throws up a lot of zeros," Roenicke said.
Gallardo hasn't been very sharp versus Washington over the course of his career, going 3-2 with a 5.35 ERA in six starts. He's given up seven runs in two of his last three matchups in the series, the most recent an 8-2 defeat July 26.
The Nationals will turn to Wang (2-3, 6.92) rather than pitching Jordan Zimmermann on short rest Sunday.
After missing more than two months with a strained right hip, Wang returned to action Wednesday, surrendering two hits over 2 1-3 scoreless innings of relief in a 7-6 loss to Los Angeles.
"I like the way Chien-Ming Wang threw," manager Davey Johnson told the team's official website. "He had good sink.
"Chien-Ming, I like who he is, I like what he is all about. I like his competitiveness. He has been in big games and, to me, all of these are big games. I think he will do a good job on Sunday."
Wang has gone 1-3 with a 6.62 ERA in four starts this season, the most recent of which came June 19, a 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay.
Wang, who's never faced Milwaukee, will need to be wary of Norichika Aoki . The right fielder is batting .396 with two homers, 10 RBIs and five stolen bases during a 12-game hitting streak.
|September 12, 2012||Carlos Gomez||Day-to-Day||Left game - right quad contusion|
|September 09, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right wrist|
|September 09, 2012||Corey Hart||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained left ankle|
|July 29, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|July 17, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Right thigh strain|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||60-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
|September 12, 2012||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Torn cuff and bone bruise in left wrist|
|September 03, 2012||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right thumb|
|September 02, 2012||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Sore hamstring|
|August 24, 2012||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Strained right hamstring|
|August 24, 2012||Michael Morse||Day-to-Day||Left game - right hand contusion|
|August 13, 2012||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Sore right ankle|
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Milwaukee Brewers have little margin for error with a week and a half left in the regular season. On Sunday, a lot of hits kept them close in the playoff scramble.
Jonathan Lucroy had a pair of RBI singles and Milwaukee collected 15 hits to beat the Washington Nationals 6-2.
Rickie Weeks had three hits while Aramis Ramirez had two doubles for Milwaukee, which twice benefited from outfielders losing fly balls in the sun. The Brewers (79-73) remained 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the final NL wild-card berth.
"They're all crucial," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "We know that, but you've just got to go out and play. I thought that we played a good game today."
Milwaukee have won 25 of its last 32 games.
Washington leads the NL East by 4 1/2 games over Atlanta. The Nationals' magic number to clinch the division remains at six.
Reliever Brandon Kintzler (3-0) pitched a scoreless sixth inning, striking out Kurt Suzuki with the bases loaded. John Axford recorded the final out with two runners on for his 33rd save.
"It's fun. All these games are fun to watch from back there," Kintzler said of the bullpen. "Then suddenly you're in the ballgame. It's intense. It's something I've been thinking about the whole year, hoping I'd be a part of."
Ryan Mattheus (5-3) allowed three earned runs on four hits.
"I don't think we're fun to face right now, as exciting as we've been," said Corey Hart , who scored twice.
Milwaukee broke a 2-all tie in the seventh. Weeks singled and Ryan Braun grounded into a forceout. Ramirez doubled to right, putting runners on second and third.
After Hart was walked intentionally, Lucroy hit a grounder up the middle. Shortstop Ian Desmond made a diving stop, but couldn't make the play at second and the Brewers led 3-2 with the bases still loaded.
The next batter, Carlos Gomez , hit a fly ball to right that was playable, but Jayson Werth lost it in the sun. Gomez wound with an RBI single and another run scored on Jean Segura 's groundout.
"It's a tough sun. There's no doubt about it," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said.
The Brewers added a run in the eighth on Braun's sacrifice fly.
Milwaukee took a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Braun led off with a fly ball to straightaway center and when Bryce Harper lost the ball in the sun, it dropped in and Braun ended up on second with a double. The next batter, Ramirez, hit a fly that Harper had trouble with, but caught.
"You can't catch what you can't see. Nothing you can do about it. The sun monster got me," Harper said.
"When it's right down the middle of the sun it's kind of hard. So you try to go left or right, try to get below it. Tried to get below the first one, got below the second one and caught it."
Washington starter Chien-Ming Wang, making his first start since June 19, went four innings and gave up two runs on eight hits while striking out two.
Wang was starting because Tuesday's rainout and Wednesday's doubleheader meant Sunday's scheduled starter, Jordan Zimmermann , would have been working on three days' rest. Johnson chose to push Zimmerman back a day.
Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo entered the game having won his last eight decisions. He went five innings, allowing two earned runs and six hits. He walked two and struck out five.
"It was tough all around. They have pretty good hitters," Gallardo said. "They made me work a lot for sure, fouled off some pretty good pitches."
The Brewers have won Gallardo's last 11 starts.
"Yo battled, his command at times was really good, but overall he was a little off today," Roenicke said. "He certainly did a good job of keeping us in the ballgame."
Twice in the first three innings, the Nationals had runners on first and third with one out against Gallardo and didn't score.
NOTES: Gomez jammed his quadriceps Saturday trying to beat out a grounder and was already playing with a bruised foot. He pinch hit in the sixth and stayed in the game. ... The Brewers will start Marco Estrada (4-6) in Monday afternoon's series finale. Jordan Zimmermann (11-8) pitches for Washington. ... Milwaukee's Norichika Aoki saw his hitting streak ended at 12 games. ... Ramirez leads the NL with 49 doubles.