Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Wolf) vs Astros (Norris)

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 14: Bud Norris #20 of the Houston Astros pitches during a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on April 14, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

EDITOR'S NOTE: While you're waiting for tonight's game to start, I'll be appearing on The Watercooler with Jimmie Kaska on AM 1400 WBIZ in Eau Claire at 5:15. Tune in live or check back later for a link to the archived audio. - KL

Can the Brewers win back-to-back games for just the third time this season?

We'll find out tonight when Randy Wolf (8.80 ERA, 5.67 FIP) takes the mound. At the moment he's having easily the worst April of his career by ERA: Before this season he had never posted an April ERA higher than the 6.52 he put up in 2005. He was the losing pitcher against the Dodgers on Thursday, allowing four runs on seven hits over six innings.

Keeping walks down has typically been one of the keys to success for Wolf, as he's been pretty good two of the last three seasons while keeping his BB/9 under 3. He's still walking right around three batters per nine innings in 2012, but has already allowed 25 hits (including three home runs) in just 15.1 innings of work. Opposing batters are hitting .373 on balls in play against him.

Wolf has faced the Astros 19 times in his career, including three times last season. He was very good against them in 2011, allowing just two runs on 12 hits over 22 innings (0.82 ERA), walking five and striking out 13. Three current Astros have faced him ten times or more:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Carlos Lee 35 .156 .229 .250 .479
Chris Snyder 18 .214 .389 .214 .603
Chris Johnson 11 .091 .091 .091 .182

He'll face David Stefan "Bud" Norris (4.26/3.72 ERA/FIP), who has started three of the Astros' six wins this season. Norris was the winning pitcher when the Astros beat Washington on Thursday, allowing four runs on ten hits and two walks over six innings. He struck out six and threw a season-high 108 pitches in the outing.

Norris works in the low 90s but his best pitch is a mid-80's slider he'll throw roughly a third of the time. He'll also work in a handful of changeups. The slider was worth +1.32 runs per 100 pitches according to FanGraphs last season, which made it one of the better pitches of its kind in all of baseball.

Norris has faced the Brewers seven times in his career, including three times last season. He posted a 5.50 ERA over eighteen innings in those 2011 outings, walking five and striking out eighteen. He allows a home run to a Brewer batter roughly once every seven innings. Three Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Ryan Braun 21 .300 .333 .650 .983
Jonathan Lucroy 10 .125 .300 .125 .425
Aramis Ramirez 10 .375 .400 1.250 1.650

Braun and Ramirez each have two career homers against Norris. George Kottaras also has one.

Here's tonight's lineup:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Corey Hart RF
George Kottaras C
Alex Gonzalez SS
Travis Ishikawa 1B
Randy Wolf P

And in the bullpen:

Francisco Rodriguez pitched one inning (19 pitches) last night, and also pitched on Sunday.
Jose Veras pitched one inning (31 pitches) last night.
John Axford pitched one inning (19 pitches) last night.
Manny Parra, Tim Dillard and Mike McClendon last pitched on Saturday.
Kameron Loe came off the bereavement list today and last pitched on Thursday.

It's a beautiful day in Milwaukee today but it's expected to get cold tonight, so the Miller Park roof will be closed.

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