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The Washington Nationals welcome in yet another National League Central foe as the Milwaukee Brewers come to DC for the first time since the 2019 NL Wild Card Game.
For the Nats, the last time the Brew Crew played a game at Nats Park, the sheer elation that exuded from the crowd was unparalleled. Juan Soto hit the go-ahead three-run double in the eighth inning to propel the Nats to victory. That set in motion the 2019 postseason run that, of course, saw the Nats hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Brewers Season to this Point
Milwaukee, much like the Nats’ previous opponent, the Cincinnati Reds, come into DC with a good deal of momentum. After a walk-off win on Wednesday afternoon, the Brewers are riding high. They have a very similar team composition to the Nationals.
Josh Hader is having a prolific season, making his case for one of the best left-handed relievers in the game. Additionally, the Brewers have Devin Williams, the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year. They have formed one of the most formidable top of the rotations in the game as well as one of the best back ends of the bullpen.
While their pitching is as impressive as any, the Brewers also have one of the most well-rounded hitting cores in baseball. The big name in the lineup is Christian Yelich, but they still have many solid contributors like Avisail Garcia, who is having a career resurgence, and Willy Adames, who has rounded into form since being traded from the Tampa Bay Rays in the past few weeks.
While they have many very talented hitters performing well over their career averages like Omar Navarez, they have many others who are underperforming. Jackie Bradley Jr., Keston Hiura, and Lorenzo Cain are all hitting below the .200 mark.
Lately, the Brewers have been winning games with their pitching and defense. Truthfully, they have not really needed to post gaudy offensive numbers in order to win games.
For the Brewers, their roster is made up in a similar manner to the Nats. Milwaukee has many older players on the roster that are being used as solid contributors. The Brewers’ roster is littered with castoffs from other organizations.
These players are trying to prove that they are still capable of making an impact at the MLB level, much like the Nationals’ roster. Additionally, the two teams both have been very inconsistent this season. For both squads, it is very unclear as to whether they will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. This is due to the fact that they are both in their respective division races early on, but still not playing very good baseball in the process.
Nats Continue Inconsistencies
For anyone who has watched the 2021 Nationals, the first thing that probably comes to mind would be the fact that the maddening lack of consistency has marred the season to this point. Take the games played on Thursday for example. The Nats played very well in the resumption of the suspended game from Wednesday night.
Even though they did give up some runs in the eighth inning to make it close, they played well overall. Then, the regularly scheduled nightcap rolled around, and the Nats were stymied by Sonny Gray. He tossed six innings of scoreless ball, scattering a mere two hits across that time. The way the team simply could not muster anything just seemed stupefying due to the fact that the Reds looked dead in the water following the first game that afternoon.
The Nats have actually been playing better overall lately, even with all those negatives. The defensive metrics favor them the most out of any other team in the league. Additionally, the bullpen has found some more consistency, with the exception of Tanner Rainey who continues to struggle.
Even the hitting has gotten to the point where hitting with runners in scoring position is not torture and they’ve shown some semblance of consistency. Wouldn’t all those factors for the Nats lead to more wins? Not quite.
The team has been playing better, but the pitching, defense, and hitting has not been working in tandem. When the team is hitting well, they are pitching poorly, and vice versa. Those are the inconsistencies that the team must clean up in order to be successful from here on out.
These two teams meet in what should amount to a series that sees little offense and lockdown pitching. A damp weekend forecast for DC means that the ball might not fly out of Nats Park like many fans are accustomed to in June.
Not only that, but the pitching from both teams should keep the opposing offenses at bay. Then again, baseball is not played on paper. These games can, and probably will, go in different manners despite the conditions.
As the season drones on, these weekend sets in early June might not mean very much in the standings now, but can become integral to a playoff push. Knowing that, both teams will be attempting to collect some hard fought wins this weekend any way possible.
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET: Brandon Woodruff (MIL), 3-2, 1.41 ERA at Max Scherzer (WSH), 4-3, 2.27 ERA