Tonight's Matchup: Pirates (McDonald) at Brewers (Gallardo)

Tonight, the Brewers get another chance to start a winning streak.

Yovani Gallardo (5.11 ERA, 4.15 FIP) takes the mound tonight coming off of one of his best starts of the season. On Saturday he shut out the Cardinals for eight innings, allowing just one hit and four walks while striking out six. It was only his second outing of more than six innings this season, and just his fourth of more than 5.1. He threw a season-high118 pitches in the game, but has had an extra day of rest since then.

Gallardo isn't getting as many strikeouts in 2011 as he has in past years, but he's replacing some of them with ground balls: His ground ball percentage is over 50% this year for the first time in his career. That's one of the reasons it's hard to believe his abnormally high BABIP against (.322) will continue. FanGraphs would also suggest he's throwing his fastball and curve a little less in 2011, and his slider about 6% more. Statistically, the curve has been his best pitch.

Gallardo didn't face the Pirates when these two teams met in Pittsburgh in April, but he did face them three times and have tremendous success last season: He allowed two runs (both unearned) on 15 hits in 17 innings, walking seven and striking out 19. Two Pirates have faced him ten times or more:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Garrett Jones 14 .500 .714 .500 1.214
Andrew McCutchen 13 .333 .385 .500 .885

Ronny Cedeno (2-for-9) and Steven Pearce (1-for-7) also have home runs against Gallardo on their resume.

He'll face James McDonald (5.65 ERA, 5.27 FIP), who has been solid lately after getting off to a really poor start in 2011. McDonald had a 10.12 ERA after allowing 21 earned runs on 25 hits in his first four starts, but has allowed just two earned runs in eighteen innings since. Last time out he shut out the Astros for six innings, holding them to three hits and two walks while striking out eight.

McDonald likely won't throw a lot of pitches tonight: He's been lifted from each of his last three starts somewhere between 89 and 98 pitches, despite the fact that he had only pitched six innings and hadn't allowed a run in two of those outings. He works in the low 90's with his fastball, but his curve has been his best pitch. He throws it about 20% of the time and FanGraphs estimates its value around +1.13 runs per 100.

McDonald didn't pitch against the Brewers in April, but did face them once in 2010: On August 27 the Brewers plated six runs against him on seven hits over 6.1 innings. No Brewers have faced him ten times or more, but Ryan Braun is 2-for-6 against him with a double and Jonathan Lucroy is 2-for-3.

Via Colin Dunlap of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, here's tonight's lineup:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Carlos Gomez CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Corey Hart RF
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Yovani Gallardo P

In the bullpen:

Sergio Mitre pitched 2.2 innings (17 pitches) on Wednesday.
Mike McClendon pitched 1.2 innings (31 pitches) on Wednesday. 
LaTroy Hawkins pitched 1 inning (14 pitches) on Wednesday.
Kameron Loe pitched .1 inning (13 pitches) on Wednesday.
Mitch Stetter faced one batter (2 pitches) on Wednesday.
Marco Estrada and John Axford last pitched on Tuesday.
Brandon Kintzler has not pitched since Wednesday, May 4.

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