Brewers-Nationals Preview

The Associated Press

Sitting in third place in the NL wild-card standings, the surging Milwaukee Brewers aren't showing any signs of letting up down the stretch.

Seeking an eighth win in nine games, the Brewers look to continue their quest for a playoff berth Monday in this series finale against the Washington Nationals, who try to avoid back-to-back home losses for the first time in almost two months.

Milwaukee (79-73) extended its longest winning streak of the season to six in Friday's series opener only to fall 10-4 the following day. The Brewers, though, bounced back Sunday, winning 6-2 to remain 2 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the second wild-card berth with 10 to play.

"They're all crucial," said manager Ron Roenicke, whose club has recorded double-digit hits six times during its 7-1 run - including 15 Sunday. "We know that, but you've just got to go out and play. I thought that we played a good game today."

Jonathan Lucroy came through with a pair of RBI singles as Milwaukee improved to a major league-best 25-7 since Aug. 20.

"I don't think we're fun to face right now, as exciting as we've been," said Corey Hart, who's gone 9 for 53 (.170) in 15 career games in the nation's capital.

The Nationals (92-60), meanwhile, dropped to 3-6 over their last nine games and saw their NL East lead over Atlanta cut to 4 1/2. Having already secured a playoff berth, Washington's magic number to clinch the division is six.

Tied with Cincinnati for the best record in baseball, the Nationals haven't suffered consecutive home losses since July 31-Aug. 1. They could be hard-pressed to keep that streak going against Marco Estrada (4-6, 3.56 ERA), however.

While his overall numbers don't stand out, Estrada has given the Brewers a huge boost of late. The right-hander has gone 4-1 with a 1.23 ERA over his last six starts, a stretch in which he's struck out 42 in 36 2-3 innings while limiting opponents to a .195 average.

Estrada was excellent again Wednesday, scattering three hits over seven scoreless innings in a 3-1 victory at Pittsburgh.

"He's definitely a hard guy to square up and do any damage against," Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones told the Brewers' official website. "He's pitching his (tail) off."

In his only career start versus Washington, Estrada gave up one run, five hits and struck out seven over six innings but didn't factor in the decision of a 5-1 road loss April 17, 2011.

Estrada will be opposed by Jordan Zimmermann (11-8, 2.96), who appears to be back on track after going 0-1 with a 9.88 ERA over a three-start stretch Aug. 20-Sept. 1. The right-hander yielded one run and six hits over six innings in Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers, improving to 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA over his last three outings.

Zimmermann has gone 4-0 in his last 10 home starts despite a 3.90 ERA.

Zimmermann stifled Milwaukee in his only career matchup in this series July 28, giving up one run and five hits over six innings to earn a 4-1 road win.

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