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.