The Brewers have spent three days in first place of the NL Central so far this season. The last time they held that honor was April 26. The last time they were in first place this late in the season was back in 2009, when they were in first place on the fourth of July. Today, Milwaukee has a chance to reclaim the top spot as they are just .5 games behind the Cardinals and a win--and series sweep--would put St. Louis in that same deficit. There is a LOT of the season left, but that doesn't make this win any less important, if not just for morale reasons.
The Cardinals will be sending Jake Westbrook (6-3, 5.01) to the mound. Westbrook has struggled some this season, though his 4.06 FIP tells us that it's not as bad as it may look. Then again, outside of his 0.5 HR/9, his peripherals kind of stink. He has just a 4.89 K/9 and his BB/9 is less than one below that at 4.24. He even has a 10.4 H/9. What Westbrook has excelled at this year is drawing groundballs--this year, 62.6% of at bats have resulted in a grounder off of Westbrook. He has never been a big strikeout pitcher, though his career BB/9 is 2.87, significantly lower than this year.
One thing is for sure, Westbrook isn't exactly looking to fool anyone. His repertoire is tailor made for enticing ground balls as he throws a 90 MPH sinker over 60% of the time. The rest of his selection is split between a mid 80s slider, a high 70s changeup and a high 70s curveball. That sinker has been worth around 30.8 runs above average over his career.
This year, right handed batters have been hitting .338/.399/.493 against Westbrook. Left handers have just a .663 OPS. He's also been pretty bad with runners on base, allowing a .881 OPS in those situations.
Westbrook has faced just two Brewers batters at least ten times. Mark Kotsay has hit .292/.400/.542 in 31 PA (.942 OPS) and Yuniesky Betancourt has hit .364/.364/.455 in 11 PA (.818 PA). And those aren't even the Brewers good hitters!
The Brewers will have Shaun Marcum (6-2, 2.58) on the mound. Marcum, of course, has been everything the Brewers could have hoped for and more this year. He's striking out eight per nine, he's walking a little more than two per nine and he has a 3.00 FIP. You want a pitch? How about Marcum's changeup, which has already been worth nearly ten runs above average this year. He doesn't even get hit that hard as his current WHIP is just a hair over one. His last outing, Marcum pitched six two hit innings. Marcum has faced just one current Cardinal, Lance Berkman. Berkman has three PA against Marcum and has hit .000/.000/.000 in those appearances.
All in all, I'm liking the Brewers chances today. Which probably means they'll lose.
I haven't seen the lineups yet, but I bet someone else has. If that someone else is you, could you leave them in the comments?
Tim Dillard pitched two innings (15 pitches) Thursday and one inning (9 pitches) Friday.
Sergio Mitre pitched two innings (31 pitches) Thursday.
Marco Estrada pitched one inning (22 pitches) Thursday.
Zach Braddock hasn't pitched since Wednesday.
LaTroy Hawkins hasn't pitched since Tuesday.
Kameron Loe pitched one inning (13 pitches) yesterday.
John Axford pitched one inning (11 pitches) yesterday.