Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Marcum) vs Cardinals (Jackson)

Tonight, the Brewers have a golden opportunity to lock down a strong advantage in the NLCS.

However, to do it they'll probably need a strong start from Shaun Marcum (3.54 ERA, 3.73 FIP in 2011, 13.50 ERA, 6.45 FIP postseason), and lately that's been a lot to ask for. Marcum struggled in three of his last four regular season starts and again on Tuesday, allowing seven runs on seven hits over 4.2 innings.

This is the paragraph where I normally tell you about recent trends with Marcum's stuff, but today Jack Moore of FanGraphs beat me to the punch. He's not seeing a notable decline in Marcum's fastball velocity but did notice a sharp decline in the usage of his changeup, which has always been his most effective pitch. Whether Marcum is fatigued or simply struggling with the change, he probably needs to find a way to throw it well and often to be effective.

This is the fifth time Marcum has faced the Cardinals in 2011, and three of the previous four outings were pretty good:

Date IP H R ER BB K Result
June 12 7 5 3 3 2 8 Brewers win, 4-3
August 2 6 7 6 6 1 2 Cardinals win, 8-7
August 9 6 8 3 3 1 3 Brewers win, 5-3
August 30 7 4 2 0 3 4 Cardinals win, 2-1

Eight Cardinals have faced Marcum ten times or more:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Lance Berkman 16 .067 .125 .067 .192
Rafael Furcal 15 .143 .200 .143 .343
Gerald Laird 12 .333 .333 .333 .667
Albert Pujols 12 .111 .333 .111 .444
Skip Schumaker 12 .250 .250 .250 .500
Nick Punto 11 .364 .364 .455 .818
Matt Holliday 10 .333 .400 .667 1.067
Jon Jay 10 .250 .300 .375 .675

He'll face off against Edwin Jackson (3.79 ERA, 3.55 FIP in 2011, 2.61 ERA, 3.75 FIP postseason). He's making his fifth career postseason appearance: He worked in relief three times as a member of the 2008 Rays, and this is his second start as a member of the Cardinals. He pitched six innings in NLDS Game 4 on Wednesday, allowing two runs on five hits over six innings. The Cardinals won the game, 5-3.

You might not have realized it (I didn't), but Jackson is quite the workhorse. He's only 28 but has averaged roughly 208 innings over the last three regular seasons. The list of pitchers to break 200 innings three times before their 29th birthday recently is pretty elite company: Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez, Ervin Santana, Jered Weaver and Cole Hamels.

Jackson faced the Brewers three times in August, with extraordinarily mixed results:

Date IP H R ER BB K Result
August 3 7 14 10 8 1 6 Brewers win, 10-5
August 9 6 6 3 2 2 2 Brewers win, 5-3
August 30 7 6 1 1 0 3 Cardinals win, 2-1

Eight Brewers have faced Jackson ten times or more:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Yuniesky Betancourt 26 .167 .192 .208 .401
Ryan Braun 13 .250 .308 .417 .724
Prince Fielder 13 .154 .154 .231 .385
Jerry Hairston Jr 13 .545 .615 .545 1.161
Mark Kotsay 13 .200 .385 .300 .685
Casey McGehee 13 .231 .231 .923 1.154
Corey Hart 10 .556 .600 1.333 1.933
Nyjer Morgan 10 .556 .556 .889 1.444

Here's tonight's lineup:

Corey Hart RF
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Rickie Weeks 2B
Jerry Hairston Jr 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Shaun Marcum P

And in the bullpen:

Francisco Rodriguez pitched one inning (19 pitches) last night.
John Axford pitched one inning (13 pitches) last night, and Ron Roenicke confirmed he's available.
Takashi Saito pitched one inning (13 pitches) last night.
Chris Narveson, Marco Estrada and Kameron Loe pitched on Wednesday.
LaTroy Hawkins hasn't pitched since Sunday, October 2.

The roof is expected to be open tonight, with the game time temperature around 63 and dropping into the 50's as the night goes along.

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