If Washington's Gio Gonzalez is to become the majors' first 20-game winner, he likely must find a way to cool off the surging Milwaukee Brewers.
The left-hander tries a second time to achieve that milestone Saturday when the Nationals look to prevent the visiting Brewers from extending their season-high winning streak to seven games.
Milwaukee (78-72) trailed 2-1 in the ninth inning before Ryan Braun delivered a game-tying single and Aramis Ramirez followed with a go-ahead double in Friday's 4-2 win at Washington. While the Nationals (91-59) clinched the franchise's second-ever postseason berth Thursday, the Brewers have won six straight and 24 of 30 to move within 1 1/2 games of St. Louis for the NL's final wild-card spot.
The Brewers last won seven in a row from July 26-Aug. 1, 2011.
"We have to win games, we're not in a position where we can rely on other people to lose," Braun said. "This is probably the best team in baseball and has been all year so you know nothing is going to come easy."
The Brewers, though, did not have much of a problem with Gonzalez (19-8, 2.95 ERA) during his initial appearance against them July 29. He allowed five runs, walked five and hit two batters in six innings of an 11-10, 11-inning Washington victory at Miller Park.
Gonzalez yielded one run, 11 hits and struck out 23 over 22 innings while winning his three previous starts before he fell short in his first attempt at a 20th win Sunday. He gave up two runs and walked four while throwing 110 pitches in five innings of a 5-1 loss at Atlanta.
"Obviously Gio had a little problem locating the strike zone," manager Davey Johnson said. "He had a whole bunch of pitches, but I wanted to give him every chance to win 20."
Braun is 0 for 3 versus Gonzalez, but hitting .406 (13 for 32) in his last eight games overall. Ramirez has batted .357 with 24 RBIs in his last 25.
Milwaukee rookie Wily Peralta (2-0, 2.14) looks to continue his impressive run Saturday. The right-hander made his major league debut in relief against Colorado on April 22, but was sent to the minors the next day. Since being recalled Sept. 4, Peralta is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three starts.
After giving up a run in six innings while not factoring in the decision of a 4-1 victory over Atlanta on Sept. 10, Peralta yielded two hits in eight innings of a 3-0 win over the New York Mets on Sunday.
"He's been amazing," Braun said. "I look at his stuff, and I don't know how he's not the top prospect in baseball. He has dominant stuff. There are very few guys who have stuff like that in baseball."
Peralta gets his first look at a Nationals club that managed five hits and a two-run Adam LaRoche homer Friday. LaRoche is batting .225 (9 for 40) in his last 11 contests but .381 with four homers and seven RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak versus Milwaukee.
Though the Nationals have dropped five of seven, their magic number to clinch the East is seven.
"It seems that everybody we're playing has a shot to get in the playoffs," Johnson told the Nationals' official website. "We're going to get their best foot forward. That's fine with me."