PITTSBURGH -- Aside from a brief, early break to rest a strained hamstring, Felipe Lopez has played every game since the Brewers traded for him last month. He'd like to keep it that way.

"I signed up to play," Lopez said, "not to take days off."

That means he should be back atop the lineup on Friday, when the Brewers return from an off-day to begin a four-game series at Nationals Park. It will be one of Lopez's many homecomings, since the Nationals are one of the six teams for which he's played.

Lopez has not taken a game off since his Brewers tenure began, but whether he has taken a few plays off remains a matter for debate. Lopez finally provided an explanation this week for the two ground balls that eluded him on Aug. 11, drawing the ire of fans at Miller Park, saying, "I was cramping up really bad that day. Really bad." The fans let him have it again two days later, when Lopez dropped an easy popup and cost the Brewers two runs.

But since a brief chat with manager Ken Macha the following afternoon, Lopez has been excellent at second base. He's been just as good at the plate all along, batting .342 (38-for-111) since the deal to solidify a spot in the lineup that had been in limbo since the Brewers lost Rickie Weeks to wrist surgery in May. Entering Wednesday's games, he ranked sixth in the National League with 140 hits.

"I try to take really good care of my body in the offseason so I can play every day," Lopez said. "It's a grind, for sure. But my body feels fine."

Of his positive contributions at the plate, Lopez said earlier this month that, "I'll be happier when we start winning some games."

Brewers bench coach Willie Randolph, the team's infield instructor, has been pleased with Lopez's offensive contributions. He's withholding judgment on defense.

"He's having a great year offensively, which is great for him and for our team, but for me, the window defensively needs to be bigger," Randolph said. "I trust him in being able to play a solid second base. What he needs to do also, with our young shortstop [Alcides Escobar], is help bring him along. He needs to take the kid under his wing a little bit. This is where the leadership thing takes over."

Has Randolph seen any lapses in focus?

"I don't like to dwell on the negative stuff. I like my middle infielders to always stay very focused," Randolph said. "There have been one or two games where there were a couple plays he would have, could have, should have made, and maybe that goes back to focus or anticipation. That happens to a lot of infielders.

"When you're trying to get into the pennant race, you can't afford mistakes, especially from a veteran guy. But it's an adjustment coming to a new ballclub, so you have to give a mulligan with some of that. Our margin of error is very, very slight right now, because we're fighting for our lives in this race. We need to make sure all of our players are taking each game like our last game.

"Overall, I would say that Felipe has done very well. He's swung the bat well, he's gotten on base, he's made plays for the most part. He gives you a real veteran presence."

Could he play every day the rest of the season?

"You'd like to sometimes give guys a break, but this is the time of year when we have to go for it, man," Randolph said. "Sometimes you can't afford that."

Said Macha: "I haven't talked to [Lopez] about that. I just pencil him in every day, and he seems ready to go. He's just been terrific leading off."

Pitching matchup
MIL: RHP Braden Looper (10-6, 5.03 ERA)
Looper pitched six innings in his last start, against the Astros, giving up four runs on four hits. Other than an RBI triple in the third inning, Looper's only blemish was a three-run homer by Geoff Blum in the sixth inning. Because of Thursday's off-day, Looper will open the series against the Nationals on regular rest. The right-hander has never faced the Nationals.

WSH: RHP J.D. Martin (2-2, 4.61 ERA)
Martin received plenty of run support in his last start, on Saturday night, as the Nationals downed the Reds, 10-6, at Great American Ball Park. Martin pitched six innings and gave up one unearned run on six hits, even going 2-for-4 with a run scored. Martin had only one clean inning, while the Reds had runners in scoring position in four out of the six frames he pitched. But the righty always found a way to get out of trouble. Martin also took advantage of at least one break he got in the first inning. After Chris Dickerson led off with a double, the next hitter, Willy Taveras, was called out on batter's interference. Martin managed to get out of the inning, leaving two runners on base.

Tidbits
Brewers pitching coach Chris Bosio received a very positive report via e-mail from Class A Wisconsin pitching coach Chris Hook, who watched Dave Bush's rehab start Tuesday night. Bush worked three scoreless, hitless innings with one walk and four strikeouts. "He wanted to go out for another," Bosio said. "They had to hold him back." ... The Brewers are putting together a care package for Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, who suffered serious injuries on Saturday when he tried to break up a domestic disturbance outside the Wisconsin State Fair and was attacked by a man wielding a pipe. Brewers players signed a get-well card for the mayor on Wednesday. ... Injury-plagued Brewers pitching prospect Mike Jones made his long-awaited Triple-A debut Wednesday and was charged with six runs on 10 hits in four innings with no strikeouts. ... Rehabbing left-hander Chris Capuano made his season debut in the Arizona Rookie League, allowing two runs on three hits with a walk and three strikeouts. Capuano, who turned 31 on Wednesday, is attempting a comeback from a second Tommy John surgery. ... Once Washington is out of the way, the only NL cities the Brewers have yet to visit this season will be Phoenix and Denver. ... The Brewers split a four-game series last year in the inaugural season of Nationals Park. They have yet to win a road series against the Nationals since the team moved from Montreal after the 2004 season.

Tickets
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On the Internet
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On radio
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Up next
• Saturday: Brewers (Mike Burns, 3-4, 5.36) at Nationals (John Lannan, 8-9, 3.68), 6:05 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Brewers (Manny Parra, 8-9, 6.33) at Nationals (Craig Stammen, 3-6, 5.13), 12:35 p.m. CT
• Monday: Brewers (Yovani Gallardo, 11-10, 3.56) at Nationals (Collin Balester, 1-3, 6.75), 3:35 p.m. CT