The Nationals have quickly forgotten about the losing skid that has characterized the entire month of August following their two-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays. The young Nats put their youthful potential on full display and showed an incredible amount of grit and fight against a talented Blue Jays club.
Now, the next challenge is much steeper, however. The Brewers swept the Nats in DC in early June. Since then, the clubs have gone in opposite directions. Nonetheless, the past is not necessarily going to dictate the upcoming matchup. Currently the Brewers are in first place in the NL Central by 8.5 games, and their task is to finish healthy and hungry for more.
The Nats have historically not done very well in Milwaukee. They are 30-48 on the road against the Brewers since the Brew Crew joined the National League in 1998.
Ignoring the pun in the subtitle, the Brewers have been playing some great baseball, last night, not included. The team has had timely hitting, lockdown pitching, and suffocating defense. The team does not have the elite lineup that some other World Series contenders boast, but they score enough to give them a chance to win behind some great starting pitching. The worst thing one can do is count them out. They have built a massive lead in the NL Central, and look to be running away with the division crown.
Offensively, they are led by a multiplayer attack. Christian Yelich is the most notable player in terms of being a known name, but he has not quite been the same player since he won MVP in 2019. Between injuries and being unable to find a rhythm because of those injuries, his numbers have seen a sharp decline. Besides Yelich, Avisail Garcia has been their best player offensively. He is the only player on the Brewers with 20 home runs and 70 RBI. Additionally, they have a trio of infielders who have been difference makers in Kolten Wong, Luis Urias, and Willy Adames. All of them have had key contributions to the Brewers, but once again, they are not this good due to their offense, it is their pitching staff that propels them.
Speaking of the pitching staff, it sure is a good one. Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes have been so dominant that they both will receive Cy Young votes. The Brew Crew duo creates arguably one of the best 1-2 punches in the league outside of the Dodgers’ monstrous rotation. To say that they are good is an injustice to them and their stats that speak for themselves. They both have ERAs below 2.20 and have over 160 strikeouts before the calendar has flipped to September. Supporting them is a trio of Freddy Peralta, who has been exceptional in his own right, Adrian Houser, and Brett Anderson although Peralta just went on the 10-day IL. The Brewers are built on pitching, but it doesn’t stop with their rotation. Their back-end of the bullpen includes Devin Williams, reigning NL Rookie of the Year with his signature airbender changeup and Josh Hader with his electric fastball.
The Brewers are a team that is reminiscent of the 2019 Nats. A team that is built on pitching and underrated hitting. Potentially, the Nats had a better lineup than the 2021 Brewers, but they stack up in a similar manner. The Nats’ combination of Scherzer-Strasburg-Corbin is matched by the Brewers’ Woodruff-Burnes-Peralta trio. The teams are very similar. Brewers fans are hoping that they can see a similar fate that the Nats did in 2019. The Brewers have never won a World Series in their franchise history. It will not be an easy task, but if anything rings true to Nats fans: dominant pitching and timely hitting makes for a lot of success in October.
In the past few days, the narrative around the Nationals has changed dramatically. Nats fans took to the idea that maybe these prospects are incapable of winning following a sweep against the Braves capping off a seven game losing streak. Now, it appears that fans have begun to understand why these players are so highly touted by the organization. Carter Kieboom hit a home run Wednesday afternoon, a huge thing for his development. Josiah Gray was superb as usual in what has become a regular occurrence for the young right hander. It all came together for the team in the most recent series.
That is not to say everything is all butterflies and roses. The Nats had complete control over both games against the Jays. On Tuesday, they were up 8-1 and the game became tense until the Nats broke through in the 8th. Wednesday, the Nats took an early lead, but the Blue Jays battled and even took the lead. It took some late heroics from Josh Bell to secure the win. As is normal with any team in the midst of a rebuild, the bullpen is usually the last thing to get renovated. Middle relievers are so replaceable that most front offices decide to revamp the bullpen last. The Nats will have their fair share of blown leads, but the thing they will have to focus on will be minimizing the damage.
When the schedule came out, many fans most likely saw this as a big series for the Nationals. These two teams are seemingly always contending and on the same level. The Nats find themselves in a tough situation, but there is not a team in the league that will feel bad for them. The Brewers look to continue their dominance and improve their record before their playoff push really begins in September. For the first time since the Trade Deadline, the Nats will be facing a contender that resides outside the NL East. The Nats are not expected to win at all, but maybe that is exactly what they want: to be the underdog.
Friday night, 8:05 PM: TBD @ Brett Anderson (4-6, 4.09 ERA)
Saturday afternoon, 4:05 PM: TBD @ Eric Lauer (4-4, 3.44 ERA)
Sunday afternoon, 2:10 PM: TBD @ Adrian Houser (7-5, 3.55 ERA)