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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Washington Nationals

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The Brewers face a tough challenge in the nation’s capital, but it may not be as daunting as you think.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Let's just all agree to forget about last week.

The Brewers have 61 games left and a half-game lead in the NL Central. If things don't work out in that race, they have two months to make up 5 games in the wildcard race.

And this week, they have an opportunity to prove they're something, starting with a series against the Washington Nationals, who come into the week with the second-best record in the National League, coasting to another NL East title with a 59-38 record.

While the Nationals are winners of 8 of their past 10, the Brewers may be getting a bit of a lucky break catching them when they are. For one, they won't have to face Stephen Strasburg, whose next start isn't scheduled until Saturday but is up in the air after leaving his last start early with the dreaded forearm tightness that sometimes is a precursor to elbow trouble. Trea Turner went on the disabled list at the end of June, outfielder Michael Taylor is also on the shelf, and Jayson Werth has missed most of the year. Of course, the Nationals still have Bryce Harper (174 OPS+), Anthony Rendon (156 OPS+), Daniel Murphy (147 OPS+) and Ryan Zimmerman (136 OPS+).

This series' most interesting matchup, though, will be the battle between the extremely resistable force against the very easily moved object between the Washington bullpen and the Milwaukee lineup. As good as the Brewers' offense has been this year, they've hit just .221/.297/.375 against relief pitchers (as opposed to .276/.342/.489 against starters). On the other hand, the Nationals' bullpen has allowed a .275/.343/.467 line. They recently improved by adding Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from Oakland, but this is still a group that has largely struggled, especially at the end of games.

Even if the Brewers are trailing late in these games, you'll probably want to stick around until the end.

Probable Pitchers

Tuesday, 6:05 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Zach Davies vs. Edwin Jackson

Yeah, Edwin Jackson is still getting starts in the major leagues in the year 2017. He made his first start with the Nationals on July 18th, actually getting through 7 innings allowing just 3 hits and 2 runs against the Angels, although those runs came on 2 solo home runs. Jackson previously made three relief appearances for the Orioles on June 7th, 9th and 10th, allowing 11 hits and 7 runs (4 earned) in 5 innings before being let go. Last year, he made 13 starts for the San Diego Padres with a 5.89 ERA, and was so bad the tanking Padres didn't even ask him back.

Wednesday, 6:05 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Jimmy Nelson vs. Gio Gonzalez

After a pretty subpar 2016 in which he put up a 4.57 ERA (but a 3.76 FIP), Gonzalez has gotten much better results this season with a 2.83 ERA (but a 4.15 FIP). Gonzalez has always been the type to outperform his FIP, though, given his tendency to work around some relatively high walk rates. That's the case again this year, as his BB/9 his risen to 3.8 -- his highest since 2011, when he somehow had a 3.12 ERA despite a 4.1 BB/9 -- but he's stranded 84.4% of baserunners he's allowed. This has the makings of a pretty frustrating night -- one of those where the Brewers get a dozen baserunners but only end up with 3 runs -- but Gonzalez is beatable if a team is patient and can come up with just a couple timely hits.

Thursday, 11:05 a.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin/MLB Network (out-of-market) - Matt Garza vs. Max Scherzer

With Clayton Kershaw on the DL for the next 4 to 6 weeks, the former La Crosse Logger great Max Scherzer could be closing in on his third Cy Young Award. He'll come into this game with a 2.26 ERA, leading the league in strikeouts (192 in just 139.1 innings), FIP (2.79), WHIP (0.840), hits per 9 innings (5.4) and strikeouts per 9 innings (12.4). He's also carrying a 5.82 K/BB ratio. I'd say wait him out and get him out of the game early with all of the deep-count strikeouts, but Scherzer also has two complete games to his name this year. If there's a positive here, it's that the Brewers beat Scherzer twice last year, including touching him up for 5 runs in 6 innings in one start and outlasting him him a 1-0 game in the other.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs