One day after Matt Garza had the shortest outing of his career, the Brewers will turn to veteran Yovani Gallardo for some quality innings.
Garza recorded only one out on Saturday, allowing five runs in a tough-luck first inning. Marco Estrada, recently moved from the rotation to the bullpen, cleaned up the start with 5 2/3 innings, but the Brewers could certainly use a good start from Gallardo, who was tagged for five runs in 5 1/3 innings vs. St. Louis in his last start.
"I think we've all been pretty consistent," Gallardo said. "We've all had our rough starts here and there, but there's always that other guy, or two or three guys, to pick up the slack."
The Brewers have slipped into a first-place tie with the Cardinals after losing 11 of 13 going into the break. The team has been atop the division every day since April 5, but would risk falling into second with a loss Sunday.
"It's a great time," Gallardo said of the recent All-Star break. "The year is so long, it's always nice to have those off-days in a row because it's something we don't always have in a season. We look at it like a fresh start. The first half is over with, and you can focus on the second half and start over."
It won't be easy for the Brewers against Gio Gonzalez, who cruised through the Milwaukee lineup in a start there on June 23. He struck out five and allowed only three hits over six innings in that start, his second since coming off the disabled list.
"He was different the last couple years," Carlos Gomez said of Gonzalez after the start. "He was working with changeups. We didn't expect him to be working with changeups. It was a really good pitch for him. He threw the ball well, so we have to give the credit."
The Nationals moved back into a first-place tie with Atlanta with their 8-3 win on Saturday and will look to get some separation with a series win.
Brewers: Smith feeling better after lower back issue
There was no humorous anecdote behind Brewers reliever Will Smith showing up for work after the All-Star break unable to pitch because of a bad back. He simply woke up on his final day off feeling stiff.
"All I did over the break was play golf and sit by the pool," said Smith, who stayed at his parents' home in Georgia. "I play golf a lot, so there's nothing out of the ordinary there. But I woke up Wednesday morning and I was like, 'Oh, that doesn't feel good.'"
He received treatment Friday and was deemed a no-go for the Brewers' second-half opener against the Nationals. Another left-hander, Zach Duke, helped preserve a 4-2 win.
Smith played catch Saturday afternoon and was feeling much better.
Nationals: Zimmermann ready to rejoin rotation
Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann had a bullpen session Saturday afternoon without any problems and is scheduled to pitch Tuesday night against the Rockies.
It will be Zimmermann's first start since July 11, when he sustained a biceps strain against the Phillies. According to Nats manager Matt Williams, Zimmermann will not be on a pitch count.
"He had a good bullpen today. He is good to go," Williams said. "All indications are that he is set to go on Tuesday unless he feels something after. We don't think he is going to.
"I don't anticipate any pitch count. We'll look at how he is feeling during the course of the game. We will not go in with any limit on him. He can go as normal as long as he feels good."
• The Nationals are 43-3 when scoring four or more runs and 9-40 when limited to three runs or fewer.
• The Brewers own the NL's best road record at 29-20.
Caitlin Swieca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.