After losing, then regaining the NL East lead at home over the weekend, the Washington Nationals hope to maintain that advantage by ending their current road slide.
That likely won't be easy as they try to avoid a fifth consecutive road defeat Monday night against the NL-leading Milwaukee Brewers, who seek their fifth straight victory.Washington (39-35) dropped the first two of a four-game set with Atlanta to fall one-half game behind the Braves, but held them to one run in winning the final two to take a 1 1/2-game lead into Milwaukee."We want to win (Monday's) game. (Sunday) is over," manager Matt Williams told the Nationals' official website. "If we do the things correctly on the field, we have a chance to win. Every game presents new challenges."Facing the Brewers (47-30) in a matchup of first-place teams presents a serious challenge for the Nationals, who hit .168 while being outscored 17-4 during their four-game road skid."It's never easy in this league," said Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who is hitting .128 (5 for 39) with eight strikeouts in his last 10 road contests. "You have to go into every series and try and win the series."Zimmerman is 3 for 10 against Milwaukee's Matt Garza (4-4, 4.02 ERA), who is 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his last five outings with only nine of the 17 runs he's allowed during that span earned. He gave up three runs in 7 2/3 innings of a 4-3 loss at Arizona on Wednesday.The right-hander is 0-1 with a 6.41 ERA in four starts against the Nationals, but has not faced them since 2012.Milwaukee scored 51 runs and homered 11 times while going 6-1 at Arizona and Colorado. Aramis Ramirez went 14 for 28 with nine runs scored, four doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs on the trip.The Brewers are a major league-best 27-15 on the road, compared to 20-15 at home."We've played pretty well on the road but you're always looking forward to go home," Ramirez said after Sunday's 6-5 win over the Rockies. "We're looking for a great homestand."Teammate Carlos Gomez has reached base in a major league-leading 35 straight games and is batting .325 during an 18-game hitting streak. However, he's 4 for 32 with 13 strikeouts in his last 11 home games versus Washington and 1 for 7 with a double against starter Gio Gonzalez (3-4, 4.85).In his first start since missing a month with shoulder inflammation, Gonzalez allowed four runs, five hits, walked three and struck out six in five innings while not factoring in the decision of a 6-5 win over Houston on Wednesday.Though the left-hander is 0-3 with a 6.46 ERA in six starts since beating St. Louis on April 18, Gonzalez is just happy to be back on the mound with a chance to turn things around."(The last start is) something to learn from, dust the cobwebs off a little bit and get back at it," Gonzalez said. "It's definitely a work in progress."Gonzalez's only previous appearances against Milwaukee came in 2012, when he went 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts.