Nationals look to avoid sweep by Brewers in battle of aces

MLB

All eyes will be on a pair of right-handed aces Sunday when the visiting Milwaukee Brewers meet the Washington Nationals in the finale of a three-game series.

Washington’s Max Scherzer is set to square off against the Brewers’ Brandon Woodruff for the first time since they met in the 2019 National League wild-card game.

Both pitchers rank in the top 10 in the National League in ERA and are coming off strong outings.

Woodruff (3-2, 1.41 ERA) owns a 1.05 ERA over his last nine starts for the Brewers, who have won six of their last eight.

Milwaukee recorded a doubleheader sweep of the Nationals on Saturday, winning the first game 4-1 before scoring four runs in the sixth inning to win the nightcap 6-2.

Washington has lost four of its last five games, and a lack of timely hitting has been the primary culprit.

The frustration continued to simmer early in the first game Saturday, when star outfielder Juan Soto grounded into a double play with one out and two runners on in the third inning and the Nationals already trailing 4-0.

Soto slammed his helmet to the ground after hitting into his sixth double play of the season.

“It’s kind of tough,” Soto said. “We’ve been working a lot trying to drive the ball to the middle of the field. And to roll over there in a big situation where we can get some runs is pretty tough for me. I try to control it, but the emotions just come out.”

Soto and the Nationals will look to maximize their opportunities against Woodruff, who tossed seven scoreless innings and struck out eight with no walks in a 5-3 win over San Diego on May 24.

The 28-year-old has made nine quality starts in a row, including 33 strikeouts over his last four outings covering 29 innings.

Josh Bell is 3-for-19 with six strikeouts against Woodruff, who is 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA in four career games (two starts) against the Nationals.

Woodruff gave up one run over four innings against Washington in the 2019 wild-card game, while Scherzer was charged with three runs on four hits and three walks in five innings in the Nationals’ 4-3 win.

The 36-year-old Scherzer (4-3, 2.27) allowed two runs and struck out nine over seven innings in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Cincinnati.

Christian Yelich is 10-for-29 with three homers against Scherzer, who is 2-2 with a 2.29 ERA in nine game, including eight starts, in his regular-season career against the Brewers.

Milwaukee received a boost in the second game Saturday from infielder Luis Urias, who served as the team’s regular shortstop before Willy Adames arrived from Tampa Bay on May 21.

Urias had three hits and two RBIs in the nightcap while playing third base. The 23-year-old appears to be making a positive transition to his new role as a utilityman.

“He’s a young player. Young players are asked to continually prove themselves,” manager Craig Counsell said. “Luis is going to be asked to prove himself again, just like every player is. He’s up for the challenge. I believe that. And I believe he’s going to be a productive member of the team.”

–Field Level Media

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