It turns out Sabathia likes pitching in the NL even better.
The Brewers’ big left-hander will look to win his ninth consecutive decision against NL opponents when he faces the Washington Nationals, who visit Miller Park to begin a four-game set Friday.
Sabathia had been pitching well before the Brewers sent four prospects to Cleveland for the Indians’ ace on July 6. Since arriving in Milwaukee, Sabathia has been even more dominant, throwing three complete games in six starts while going 5-0 with a 1.88 ERA.
He won at Atlanta on Saturday, allowing two runs and striking out nine in 8 1-3 innings of a 4-2 victory. Including his interleague starts for the Indians, Sabathia is 17-6 with a 3.37 ERA against the NL, and 8-0 with a 2.10 ERA in his last 10 starts versus NL opponents.
“It’s been going well so far,” said Sabathia, who has never faced Washington. “I just want to be able to keep us in games.”
He has also helped keep the Brewers (64-51) in playoff position, as they lead the wild-card race by one game over St. Louis. This weekend, the Cardinals visit Chicago, which leads Milwaukee by five games in the NL Central.
“There’s still a lot of games to play, but the significance is that you don’t want to be in a bad position,” outfielder Mike Cameron told the Brewers’ official Web site. “We’re in a pretty good position through all of the stuff that has gone on over the last couple of weeks.”
The Brewers still managed to go 4-2 on a road trip through Atlanta and Cincinnati, capping it with a 6-3 win over the Reds on Wednesday. They play their next seven games against Washington and San Diego, the teams tied for the worst record in the league.
The Nationals (44-71) have played well recently, however, winning six of their last seven and sweeping a doubleheader at Colorado with a pair of 6-3 victories Thursday.
Washington has scored 42 runs in its last seven games, a stretch that followed a nine-game losing streak during which it totaled 19 runs. Outfielder Lastings Milledge has led the way during the current surge, hitting in eight straight games and homering four times in his last six contests.
“We’re coming out here to win whether we’re in contention or not. They know that,” Milledge said. “I wouldn’t say we’re spoilers. We came out and played the game right.”
The Nationals will send rookie Collin Balester (2-3, 4.55 ERA) to the mound Friday. While the right-hander has struggled to pitch deep into games, he has a 3.31 ERA in three starts since the All-Star break. He beat Cincinnati on Sunday, allowing one run in 5 1-3 innings of a 4-2 win.
The Brewers and Nationals split four games in Washington in May, but the Nats were swept in a three-game series the last time they visited Milwaukee from May 7-9, 2007.