A red-hot offense has sparked the Washington Nationals’ latest surge, propelling the club 20 games over .500 for the first time since 1994.
The NL East-leading Nationals seek a seventh straight victory Friday against Fiers, who owns baseball’s best ERA over the last six weeks with little to show for it.
Washington (59-39) won Thursday’s opener 8-2 to snap an eight-game losing streak at Miller Park and match its longest winning streak of the season. The Nationals are tied with the New York Yankees for baseball’s best record and have a five-game lead over Atlanta in the division.
“It’s July,” said Ryan Zimmerman, who is batting .357 with two homers and seven RBIs during the six-game streak. “If we have the best record in September or October then we can talk about it.”
LaRoche has homered in three straight games and is batting .421 with six RBIs during a five-game hitting streak, while Morse, who drove in two runs in the opener, is hitting .364 with two homers and five RBIs in his last five.
Washington might not have as much luck, however, against Fiers (3-4, 1.96 ERA), who in seven games - six starts - since July 16, has a major league-best 0.76 ERA. He gave up two runs and five hits in six innings against Cincinnati on Sunday.
Despite recording his sixth consecutive quality start, the rookie right-hander was saddled with a 2-1 loss, leaving him with a 2-2 record in those games. The Brewers have scored one run or less in three straight and four of his last five starts.
While the Nationals are racing toward the franchise’s first playoff berth since 1981, defending NL Central champion Milwaukee (44-54) has lost a season-high seven straight and is 14 games behind first-place Cincinnati.
The Brewers, who are almost certainly going to deal ace Zack Greinke before Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline, are trying to avoid their longest losing streak since a nine-game slide from May 10-19, 2010.
Thursday’s defeat dropped Milwaukee to 26-24 at Miller Park, matching last season’s loss total there. The Brewers had a major league-best 57 home wins in 2011. The Nationals, meanwhile, currently own the majors’ best road record at 31-20.
Even Ryan Braun hasn’t been immune to Milwaukee’s struggles at Miller Park, batting .118 with one RBI in his last five games there. The reigning league MVP is, however, hitting .421 with five homers in his last 19 at-bats against left-handers, and he’ll be facing one Friday in Ross Detwiler (5-3, 3.01).
Detwiler allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings in Sunday’s 9-2 win over Atlanta, his first victory as a starter since May 3. Although he hadn’t picked up a win in nine starts, he also hasn’t lost in his last six. The Nationals have won his last four outings, and he has a 0.64 ERA in his last two.
In his only appearance against the Brewers on July 25, 2010, Detwiler allowed five unearned runs in 3 2-3 innings.