Brewers-Nationals Preview

The Associated Press

Bryce Harper provided an immediate boost for the Washington Nationals in his return from injury. For an encore, he'll try to help the Nationals give some better support for Stephen Strasburg.

Strasburg, meanwhile, will try to produce another stellar performance in his first matchup with the struggling Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night.

After missing 31 games with bursitis in his left knee, Harper homered on the second pitch he saw and sparked Washington to a 10-5 victory in Monday's series opener. Jayson Werth drove in a season-high five runs and NL wins leader Jordan Zimmermann had three hits as the Nationals won for the eighth time in 12 games.

"It's kind of contagious. Everybody knows we've got some work to do," manager Davey Johnson said. "Let's get down to business. Let's get serious."

Strasburg (4-6, 2.41 ERA) will next try to help Washington (42-40) move three games over .500 for the first time since May 18. The right-hander has a 1.47 ERA in his last eight games but has earned just one win in his last four. He's been given just six runs of support in those four starts.

Strasburg allowed two runs over seven innings against Arizona on Thursday but the Nationals lost 3-2 in 11 frames.

"I think it's making me a better pitcher," Strasburg told the team's website. "I think the one thing I learned is that you can't go out there and try to do too much, you can't go out there and pitch to the scoreboard. Once you do that, you're done."

Strasburg will try to take advantage of the Brewers, who are on the verge of their longest losing streak this season.

Milwaukee (32-49) is batting .227 and has been outscored 36-16 during its six consecutive defeats.

With just two wins in his last 10 starts, scheduled starter Wily Peralta (5-9, 5.58) would seem an unlikely catalyst for a Brewers' resurgence. The right-hander, though, had one of the best outings June 21, a 2-0 win over Atlanta, before being hurt by some unearned runs in his most recent outing Thursday.

Only three of the seven runs Peralta gave up in a 7-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs were earned. Milwaukee has committed eight of its 56 errors in the past six games, including two on Monday.

"We're not putting everything together. You're not going to win like that," center fielder Carlos Gomez said. "(If) we're pitching, we're not hitting. When we hit, we're not pitching. It doesn't work like that."

Peralta lost in his only start against the Nationals on Sept. 22. He gave up three runs, five hits and four walks in just 2 2-3 innings in a 10-4 defeat.

Ian Desmond went 2 for 2 against Peralta in that game. Juan Francisco (2 for 8) and Yuniesky Betancourt (0 for 3) are the only Brewers players to have faced Strasburg, and the two have struck out a combined seven times.

Milwaukee, losers in a season-high five straight on the road, last suffered a seventh consecutive overall loss July 26, an 8-2 home defeat to Washington.