WASHINGTON -- Could Travis Shaw and the Brewers have drawn up a better start to their biggest week all season?
"That's about as good as you can get," Shaw said after belting a three-run home run in an 8-0 win over the Nationals. "We need to start playing better. We haven't played good at all offensively. Like, at all. So, tonight was a good night."
Zach Davies pitched into the eighth inning for the first time this season, and the Brewers broke free of their recent offensive funk with home runs from Shaw, Eric Thames and Manny Pina. It was a loud beginning to a week that begins against the National League East-leading Nationals, continues at Miller Park against the NL Central-rival Cubs and leads to Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The Brewers and Cubs both won Tuesday, so Milwaukee's lead in the division remained at a half-game. Clubhouse televisions at Nationals Park were once again tuned to Chicago's game Tuesday afternoon as the Crew kept tabs on its division rivals.
"I love it, too, because when the Cubs are playing, their games are always on. Everybody is always looking," said Thames. "It's a competition. Every day, it's like we're starting a battle. We know it now, too. If we keep losing, we'll be in second or even third place. The guys are kind of fired up to keep it up, keep it going."
Shaw has his own approach.
"We know the standings, but if we're looking at the Cubs in July, then that's just wishful thinking and, like, begging for something good to happen," Shaw said. "That's not a good thing to fall into as a team. You don't want to scoreboard-watch in July. That's being hopeful and not being confident in yourself.
"At least for me personally, I think we'll get back on the right track."
Whether they were scoreboard-watching or not, Shaw and Thames agreed on one thing: "It's a huge win. It's a huge job for Zach to come out and shove it."
Davies delivered the sort of performance the Brewers might have to face in the coming days. Their next three games are against the Nationals' Giovany Gonzalez and Max Scherzer, followed by Jose Quintana in the opener against the Cubs at Miller Park.
"At this time for us, it's time to get going," said Davies. "It's time for us to separate ourselves and get back to the way we were playing in the first half. Especially making a statement against a good team like [the Nationals], it's making a statement that we're here to stay."
There were off-the-field developments Tuesday as well. The Brewers reportedly agreed to a trade for White Sox reliever Anthony Swarzak, a right-hander enjoying a career year at age 31. Swarzak would bolster a bullpen led by Brewers All-Star closer Corey Knebel and setup man Jacob Barnes, though the deal was not official as of Tuesday night. Notably, the player heading to Chicago in the deal, 17th-ranked Brewers prospect Ryan Cordell, has been on the disabled list at Triple-A Colorado Springs with a back injury.