Brewers-Nationals Preview

The Associated Press

After they struggled to come through in key situations in the opener, the Washington Nationals responded with several timely hits to even this series and return to the top of the NL East.

While Washington looks to remain in first with its fourth win in five games, the inconsistent Milwaukee Brewers will try to bounce back by avoiding their 13th loss in 16 contests Sunday at Nationals Park.

The Nationals (52-43) couldn't take advantage of their opportunities Friday, going 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position in a 4-2 loss that dropped them a game behind Atlanta in the division race.

Washington, however, turned things around Saturday by knocking out Matt Garza in the first inning and going 5 for 13 with runners in scoring position in an 8-3 victory that pulled it even with Atlanta after the Braves' loss to Philadelphia.

''You want to be aggressive and you've got an opportunity for a crooked number there,'' manager Matt Williams said of the five-run first inning.

Ryan Zimmerman finished with two hits and three RBIs, while Wilson Ramos had three hits and three RBIs. Jayson Werth added a pair of doubles, leaving him with a .383 average, six home runs and 19 RBIs over his last 13 contests.

Yovani Gallardo (5-5, 3.68 ERA) looks to help the Brewers (54-44) pick up their first series win since June 26-29 after they fell back into a first-place tie with St. Louis' victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Gallardo, who hasn't won since June 19, is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in his last three starts. He did not factor in the decision July 11 when he allowed five runs - including a season-high three homers - over 5 1-3 innings in a 7-6 home loss to St. Louis.

The right-hander was terrible in his last start in the nation's capital, allowing eight runs over three innings in a 10-5 loss July 1, 2013. In his only meeting with Washington this season, he allowed one run over six in a 4-2, 16-inning loss June 24.

Zimmerman hit a walk-off home run in that marathon victory, and is 4 for 12 with a homer when facing Gallardo. He's also 9 for 22 with a homer and eight RBIs in his last six games.

Bryce Harper is 4 for 7 with a home run in this series after going 3 for 29 in his last nine games before the break.

Washington's Gio Gonzalez (6-5, 3.56) was originally slated to start Saturday, but had his outing pushed back when he missed Thursday's bullpen session because one of his flights back to Washington was canceled.

"(Gonzalez) could have pitched without throwing a bullpen, but we don't want to do that," Williams told MLB's official website. "We want to make sure."

The left-hander had his 22-inning scoreless streak snapped when he allowed three earned runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 4-3 loss at Baltimore on July 10. Still, he's 3-1 with a 1.93 ERA in five starts since missing a month due to inflammation in his left shoulder.

One of those outings came at Miller Park on June 23, when he gave up three hits over six innings in a 3-0 victory to improve to 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three career starts versus Milwaukee.

He'll try to cool off slugger Ryan Braun, who hit his 12th home run Saturday. The outfielder is hitting .377 with 15 RBIs over his last 16 games.

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