Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Narveson) v. Nationals (Hernandez)

The Brewers are looking for their eighth straight home win tonight, and they're doing it with reigning Brewer of the Week Chris Narveson (3.44 ERA, 2.92 FIP) on the mound. Since getting shelled by the Reds in his last appearance in April, Narveson has posted a 2.49 ERA in four starts in May and is holding opposing batters to a .245/.284/.309 line over that span. He pitched 7.1 shutout innings against the Padres on Thursday, allowing just four hits and a walk while striking out four. He's allowed one run or less in four of his nine starts this season.

Narveson's changeup has always been his best pitch, but he's getting even more mileage than usual out of it this season: He's throwing it 33.8% of the time (compared to 46.7% for his fastball) and it's been worth +1.98 runs per 100 pitches according to FanGraphs. His fastball also has been good this season, at +1.46 runs per 100.

Narveson faced the Nationals when these two teams met on April 15 and was not exceptional, allowing three runs on five hits and four walks over 5.2 innings. The Brewers lost the game 4-3. No current Nationals have faced him ten times or more, but Mike Morse is 4-for-7 with a pair of home runs.

He'll face longtime Brewer nemesis Livan Hernandez (3.64 ERA, 3.53 FIP), back to attempt to torment us once more. Hernandez is 36 (we think) but has been around forever and continues to defy aging. He's allowed just two runs over 14 innings in his last two starts, scattering 13 hits while walking four and striking out 11. He threw a season-high 116 pitches against the Mets on Thursday, the 157th time in his 456 career games he's thrown that many or more.

There's simply nothing in Hernandez's arsenal that seems like it should be good. He's got a low-to-mid 80's fastball, slider, the slowest curve you might see this season, and a changeup that's only a few MPH slower than his fastball. Yet somehow his curve is very effective (+2.86 runs per 100) and all three of his other pitches are around average.

Hernandez pitched a complete game shutout against the Brewers in 2010 and allowed just one run over seven innings against them on April 17. Run support has been his major issue this season: the Nationals have scored just one run during his four starts in May, getting shut out 1-0 twice, shut out 8-0 once and losing 4-1 in the offensive outburst. Six Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Craig Counsell 55 .362 .444 .404 .849
Mark Kotsay 41 .342 .366 .395 .761
Rickie Weeks 21 .200 .238 .300 .538
Ryan Braun 20 .250 .250 .450 .700
Prince Fielder 19 .118 .211 .176 .387
Corey Hart 10 .222 .300 .333 .633

I wrote this pretty early in the day (I'm working ahead and tailgating tonight), so I haven't seen today's lineup. If you have, maybe you can post it in the comments?

Here's today's bullpen situation:

Tim Dillard pitched one inning (22 pitches) last night despite being covered in dust.
Marco Estrada pitched one inning (16 pitches) last night.
John Axford
pitched 1 inning (21 pitches) Sunday
Kameron Loe pitched one inning (13 pitches) Sunday.
Sergio Mitre, LaTroy Hawkins and Mike McClendon last pitched on Friday.

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