The Washington Nationals, who beat the host Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series, are enjoying some rare momentum down the stretch of a lost season.
The Nationals will look to earn a series win and extend their winning streak Saturday afternoon when they oppose the National League Central-leading Brewers again. Milwaukee has lost two in a row after winning eight of the previous nine.
Left-hander Eric Lauer (4-4, 3.44 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Brewers against right-hander Paolo Espino (3-4, 4.16 ERA).
The Nationals earned their third straight win Friday night, when Patrick Corbin stopped a six-start winless streak by allowing one run over 6 1/3 innings in Washington’s 4-1 victory.
The Nationals, who headed to Milwaukee fresh off a two-game sweep of the AL-wild-card-contending Toronto Blue Jays, haven’t won four straight since June 27-30. Washington ended that streak with a 15-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays to improve to 40-38 and move within two games of first place in the NL East.
The Nationals are 13-30 since then, a skid that resulted in a teardown at the trade deadline and the exit of World Series-winning stars such as Yan Gomes, Daniel Hudson, Max Scherzer and Trea Turner.
The rebuild has provided plenty of opportunities for younger players such as Lane Thomas, whose two-run triple in the fourth inning Friday snapped a scoreless tie, and Riley Adams, who added an RBI single in the sixth. In addition, Kyle Finnegan earned his fifth save in six tries since July 29.
“Obviously, they got rid of some guys who could play pretty well,” Thomas said. “But I think you’ve got a lot of young guys who can play and have a plus side. I think that’s good for everybody. It boosts our confidence, because we can go out and definitely win some games this next month and a half.”
The Brewers have lost back-to-back games just three times in the second half, during which their lead in the NL Central has ballooned from four games to 7 1/2 games over the second-place Cincinnati Reds. Milwaukee hasn’t lost three straight since the Reds took the final three games of a four-game series from July 9-11.
Corbin and a trio of relievers limited the Brewers to three hits on the day that Milwaukee returned from an 8-2 road trip.
“You knew kind of coming into the day it was going to be a little tough,” said Brewers left-hander Brett Anderson, who took the loss after allowing three runs in 5 1/3 innings. “It was such a long road trip, we played so well, and then getting in late a little bit last night, it was going to be a grind today.”
Lauer returned from the COVID-19 list Sunday and didn’t factor into the decision after surrendering one run over four innings in the Brewers’ 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Espino took a loss last Sunday when he gave up five runs over four-plus innings as the Nationals fell to the Atlanta Braves 6-5.
Lauer is 0-1 with a 2.89 ERA in three career starts against the Nationals. Espino, who made his major league debut for the Brewers in 2017, tossed a scoreless inning of relief in his only appearance against Milwaukee on May 29.
–Field Level Media