The Brewers return to Fenway Park tonight for the first time since 2008, and at least we can be certain things won't go worse this time than they did then.
Tonight the Brewers will face John Lackey (7.41 ERA, 5.31 FIP), who is having a pretty miserable start to his 2011 season. Nearly three full months into the season he's made just nine starts, allowed seven home runs, walked seven batters and allowed nearly as many earned runs (42) as innings pitched (51). He's also missed almost a month with a sore elbow. He's posted a 5.40 ERA in two starts since coming off the DL, and allowed four runs to the Blue Jays over six innings on Saturday.
If you didn't know Lackey's elbow was hurting, his velocity wouldn't tell you. His fastball still sits in the low 90's and he's still throwing a curve, slider and change at roughly the same rates he always has. The slider has been his best pitch this season at +3.75 runs per 100 pitches, and his fastball has been pretty poor at -2.23.
Despite the fact that he's been a major league pitcher for ten seasons now, Lackey has never faced the Brewers during the regular season. Two Brewers, however, have a fair amount of experience against him:
Lackey will face Shaun Marcum (2.68 ERA, 2.89 FIP), who has been nothing short of excellent this season. Through 14 starts he's on pace to set a career high with 8.24 strikeouts per nine innings and 210 innings pitched, and a career low with a 2.68 ERA. He's allowed just five earned runs over 20 innings in June (2.25 ERA), and last time out he held the Cardinals to three runs on just five hits over seven innings, walking two and tying a season high with eight strikeouts.
Marcum is having a lot of success in 2011 despite the fact that he's hardly using his fastball, throwing the ~87 mph pitch just 30.7% of the time. He's actually throwing his changeup more (32.8%), and mixing in a steady dose of curves, cutters and sliders. According to FanGraphs, all five pitches have been above average this season.
Marcum is no stranger to the Red Sox: He faced them five times as a member of the Blue Jays last season. He had two disaster starts (combined 9 IP, 14 ER) and three very good starts (combined 21 IP, 4 ER) in those games. Nine current Red Sox have faced him ten times or more:
Rickie Weeks 2B
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder DH
Casey McGehee 3B
Corey Hart RF
Mark Kotsay 1B
Jonathan Lucroy C
Craig Counsell SS
And in the bullpen:
Sergio Mitre pitched 2 innings (33 pitches) yesterday.
Daniel Ray Herrera pitched .2 innings (13 pitches) yesterday.
John Axford pitched 1 inning (20 pitches) Wednesday.
Kameron Loe pitched 1 inning (13 pitches) Wednesday.
LaTroy Hawkins pitched 1 inning (12 pitches) Wednesday.
Tim Dillard pitched 0.2 inning (10 pitches) Wednesday.
Marco Estrada pitched 0.1 inning (9 pitches) Tuesday.
Keep an eye on the radar tonight, because weather has a strong chance to become a factor in this game. As of 2 pm the Weather Channel was predicting a 35% chance of thunderstorms around game time, increasing to a 70% chance at 7 and remaining around 50% throughout the night.
It'll be interesting to see how it's handled if conditions get ugly: I doubt the Red Sox want to play a doubleheader tomorrow (during the Bruins' Stanley Cup parade), and neither team is likely interested in a getaway day doubleheader on Sunday.