- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fresh off a nine-game road trip, the Washington Nationals are coming home to face a struggling Milwaukee Brewers team.

The Nationals and the Brewers begin a three-game series Tuesday at Nationals Park, and the Brewers have lost seven of their last eight games.

Milwaukee has been one of the surprises of the season and entered the All-Star break with a 5½ game lead in the National League Central, taking advantage of a Chicago Cubs championship hangover and a mediocre division.

But the Brewers (53-48) have faltered after the break, with their lone win in the last nine days coming against the Philadelphia Phillies. They were swept against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Brewers are now clinging on to a half game lead in the NL Central over the Cubs.

The fact the Brewers are in this spot, however, has come unexpectedly. They figured to be rebuilding, and still are. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked the Brewers with the sixth best farm system in baseball, meaning they’ll have more talent in the future.

Yet, the Brewers have to manage taking advantage of a down-year in the Central and building for the future. Milwaukee understandably wants to keep their division lead and have been linked as one of the buyers for July 31’s trade deadline.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported Monday that Milwaukee’s “main objective is to add pitching.”

The Brewers have been linked to some of the same targets the Nationals have been: Oakland A’s starter Sonny Gray and Detroit Tigers’ closer Justin Wilson.

As a pitching staff, the Brewers rank sixth in the NL in ERA with a 4.14 ERA. Their starters have a 4.03 ERA, fifth-best, while their relievers have a 4.23 ERA, which ranks ninth.

Meanwhile, the Nationals went 7-2 on their road trip out west. They are 59-38 with a 12.5 game lead in the NL East.

Yet, the Nationals have also been linked to many players for the trade deadline and it remains to be seen if they make a move. They might have to, especially if Stephen Strasburg misses any extended period of time after leaving Sunday’s game with a sore forearm. Starting pitching wasn’t a need heading into the break, but Joe Ross had Tommy John surgery.

So while the Nationals and Brewers will be competing in a three-game series on the field, they also might be competing for the same players at the trade deadline.

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