The Milwaukee Brewers have been fortunate to avoid many serious injuries to key players in 2008. They hope their most recent one follows along the same lines.
The surging Brewers could be without All-Star Ryan Braun as they try for a fifth straight victory Sunday afternoon in the finale of a three-game series against the Washington Nationals at Miller Park.
Braun left Milwaukee’s 6-0 win over Washington on Saturday in the third inning due to tightness on the sides of his ribcage suffered during a first-inning at-bat.
“We don’t need to have any problem there,” Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said of being cautious with Braun, who’s batting .300 with a team-high 30 homers and 84 RBIs during his second major-league season.
The left fielder is day-to-day with lower back tightness.
“I think it might be some kind of muscle spasm or something,” Braun said. “I couldn’t breathe. So, we’ll see how it feels tomorrow morning.”
Despite a season-ending knee injury to starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee (66-51) has remained relatively healthy and is four games back of NL Central-leading Chicago. The Brewers own a two-game lead over St. Louis in the wild-card standings.
While the Brewers hope Braun’s injury isn’t long term, they might be able to get by without him Sunday as they try for a third consecutive shutout of the Nationals (44-73), who are scoreless in 22 consecutive innings.
Milwaukee hasn’t lost since first baseman Prince Fielder shoved pitcher Manny Parra in a dugout confrontation during a 6-3 loss at Cincinnati on Monday. Parra (9-5, 4.18 ERA), who was solid for four innings before giving up six runs in his last two in that contest, takes the mound Sunday.
“Stuff happens like that all the time,” said Parra, who has made up with Fielder after an incident that was likely due to the club having lost seven of nine at the time. “I just want to focus on my next start.”
The left-hander, who looks to avoid a fourth straight loss, is 1-3 with a 4.82 ERA over his last six outings since winning six consecutive starts from May 30-June 28.
Parra allowed six runs in 4 1-3 innings but didn’t factor in the decision of a 7-6 loss at Washington on May 25 in his only career start against the Nationals.
Washington had won six of seven coming into this series, but has 10 hits over the first two games, including two by Ronnie Belliard on Saturday. He is 8-for-16 in six games this month.
Lastings Milledge extended his hitting streak to 10 games Saturday, batting .375 (15-for-40) during that span.
One of the lowest-scoring teams in the majors, the Nationals have been shut out in consecutive contests three times this season. Washington was last held scoreless in three straight games April 13-15, 2004 at Florida.
Washington’s John Lannan (6-11, 3.55) tries to avoid a third straight losing decision Sunday. He did not factor in the decision of an 8-2 loss at Colorado on Tuesday despite allowing two runs and five hits in seven innings.
“He’s given us a lot of quality starts without much to show for it,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said.
The left-hander gave up three runs in five innings of a 5-2 loss to Milwaukee on May 24 in his only previous start versus the Brewers.