Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Wolf) at Diamondbacks (Saunders)

Tonight, the Brewers have another chance to finish this off.

They'll get that chance against Joe Saunders (3.69 ERA, 4.78 FIP), who was originally scheduled to pitch last night but was pushed back a day with a hand injury. He's thrown a career-high 212 innings this season and posted a sub-4.00 ERA but the stats would suggest he's due for some regression: Opposing hitters are hitting .271 on balls in play against him (down from .289 career), he's striking out less than five batters per nine innings and allowing 1.2 home runs over the same span. He's pitching tonight on a week of rest: He allowed five runs on nine hits to the Dodgers over six innings on Wednesday, walking none and striking out two.

Before that last start, Saunders was on something of a hot streak: He'd averaged almost seven innings per start over his last six appearances and posted a 1.98 ERA. He throws a 90 mph fastball, a plus changeup and above-average sliders and curves. The changeup is worth +1.05 runs over 100 pitches this season, and +0.43 for his career.

Saunders is facing the Brewers for the second time this season: On July 20 he pitched seven innings and allowed two runs on five hits in what eventually became a 5-2 Brewer victory. Three Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Yuniesky Betancourt 33 .258 .303 .387 .690
Carlos Gomez 13 .308 .308 .538 .846
Jerry Hairston Jr 11 .444 .455 .889 1.343

The Brewers' fourth starter of the postseason will be Randy Wolf (3.69 ERA, 4.29 FIP), and now that I look closer I'm realizing that most of the things I said above about Saunders are also true about him. Wolf has thrown 212.1 innings this season (his career high is 215.2, set last season) and is also getting good results despite the fact that he doesn't strike many batters out (5.7 per nine innings). He last pitched on Tuesday, September 27 and allowed four runs on nine hits over 5.2 innings against the Pirates.

This season Wolf seems to have evolved into a bit of a junkballer, but it's working for him. For the first time in his career he's throwing his upper 80's fastball less than 50% of the time, replacing it with a heavy dose of sliders and curves and some changeups. In terms of runs per 100 innings, though, the fastball remains his best pitch at +0.61.

Wolf faced Arizona twice in a two week stretch this season and had mixed results:

Date IP H R ER BB K
July 5 6 10 7 7 4 4
July 18 7.1 8 3 2 1 3

Seven current Diamondbacks have faced Wolf ten times or more:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Chris Young 33 .296 .406 .519 .925
Justin Upton 24 .250 .375 .600 .975
Henry Blanco 16 .357 .333 .500 .833
Ryan Roberts 15 .462 .533 .769 1.303
Geoff Blum 14 .385 .429 .538 .967
Willie Bloomquist 12 .300 .417 .300 .717
Gerardo Parra 10 .333 .400 .667 1.067

Tonight's lineup features a couple of changes:

Corey Hart RF
Jerry Hairston Jr 3B
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Rickie Weeks 2B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Carlos Gomez CF
George Kottaras C
Randy Wolf P

Lefties hit just .212/.240/.341 against Saunders this season (compared to .281/.345/.465 for righties), so I was hoping Jonathan Lucroy would catch Wolf tonight. No such luck.

In the bullpen:

Kameron Loe pitched 1.1 innings (16 pitches) last night.
Marco Estrada pitched one inning (16 pitches) last night.
Chris Narveson pitched one inning (13 pitches) last night.
LaTroy Hawkins, John Axford, Takashi Saito and Francisco Rodriguez all pitched on Sunday.

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