Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Wolf) at Cubs (Dempster)

With a really tough interleague schedule looming, it'd be nice to gain some ground on the NL Central this week in Chicago.

The Brewers will get their first chance tonight with Ryan Dempster (5.96 ERA, 4.39 FIP) on the mound. Dempster is the NL leader with 53 earned runs allowed this season and his 1.5 home runs allowed per nine would be his highest rate since 2002, when he posted a 6.19 ERA as a member of the Reds. With that said, both his FIP (4.39) and xFIP (3.40) would suggest he's been pretty unlucky. He was pretty good on Wednesday, holding the Reds to a run on just three hits over six innings, walking one and striking out eight. He's had either a quality start (six) or a disaster start (three) in nine of his last ten outings.

Despite the fact that he's in his fourteenth major league season, Dempster's stuff is about what it's always been. He has a ~90 mph fastball, but throws a slider over a third of the time and mixes in a fair number of splitters. FanGraphs says the slider and splitter have both been above average this season.

Dempster missed the Brewers when these two teams met earlier this season but faced them five times in 2010. The Cubs won four of those five matchups and Dempster was the winning pitcher in each of them. Overall he posted a 2.23 ERA against the Crew in 32.1 innings, holding Brewer batters to a .214/.319/.359 line. No less than ten Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Batter PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Prince Fielder 47 .250 .362 .528 .889
Ryan Braun 44 .184 .295 .395 .690
Rickie Weeks 39 .290 .410 .323 .733
Corey Hart 38 .152 .263 .364 .627
Craig Counsell 33 .250 .364 .393 .756
Casey McGehee 22 .300 .364 .400 .764
Randy Wolf 15 .385 .385 .385 .769
Mark Kotsay 12 .300 .417 .600 1.017
Nyjer Morgan 12 .000 .182 .000 .182
Wil Nieves 11 .182 .182 .182 .364

It's worth noting that nine of those 12 meetings between Kotsay and Dempster came in 2002, meaning the two have only matched up three times since.

Dempster will face off against Randy Wolf (3.49 ERA, 4.46 FIP), who continues to hurt this team with his inability to pitch to Jonathan Lucroy. Wolf was pretty good against the Mets on Wednesday, allowing a run on four hits over 6.2 innings, walking two and striking out six. He also hit a batter, something he's done once in each of his last four starts and seven times in his last seven starts.

Wolf's wildness this season is likely partially due to an increased reliance on breaking and off-speed pitches. He's throwing his fastball less than 50% of the time for the first time in his career, and replacing it with heavy doses of sliders, curves and changeups. According to FanGraphs, his fastball and curve have been above average this season, but his slider and changeup have not.

Wolf last faced the Cubs on April 8, and got roughed up a bit: He allowed six runs (two home runs) on nine hits over six innings, but four of those runs were unearned. Geovany Soto and Jeff Baker took him deep in the game. Three current Cubs have faced him ten times or more:

Batter PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Aramis Ramirez 29 .185 .241 .333 .575
Geovany Soto 23 .318 .348 .773 1.121
Ryan Dempster 12 .111 .111 .111 .222

Via Tyler Barnes, here's tonight's frustrating lineup:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Mark Kotsay CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Corey Hart RF
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Wil Nieves C
Randy Wolf P

And in the bullpen:

John Axford pitched one inning (19 pitches) yesterday, and also pitched on Saturday.
Kameron Loe pitched one inning (8 pitches) yesterday, and also pitched on Saturday.
Tim Dillard hasn't pitched since Friday.
Sergio Mitre and Marco Estrada haven't pitched since Thursday.
Zach Braddock hasn't pitched since Wednesday.
LaTroy Hawkins hasn't pitched since Tuesday.

Weather:

The forecast shouldn't be an issue tonight. The temp at game time will be in the mid 60's and should be around 60 when the game ends, with no precipitation in sight.

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