Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Gallardo) @ Cardinals (Westbrook)

Yovani Gallardo struggled mightily against the Cardinals on Opening Day, but hopefully that's out of his system.

Y'know what would be nice? If the Brewers departed St. Louis closer to the NL Central lead than they were when they got there.

They'll get a chance to move in that direction tonight when they face Jake Westbrook (1.31/2.94 ERA/FIP), who has only allowed three earned runs in his first three starts of the 2012 season. Westbrook last pitched on Saturday, when he allowed two runs on seven hits over 6.2 innings against the Pirates. He walked two and struck out six in that game, throwing 113 pitches.

Westbrook has always been reasonably good at keeping the ball in the park (a career 0.79 HR/9), but this year he has yet to allow a long ball. He's also held opposing batters to a .219 batting average on balls in play, down from .299 for his career. Both of those facts have nicely covered up the fact that Westbrook is only striking out 4.4 batters per nine innings.

Westbrook has faced the Brewers six times in his career, including four times last season. He posted a 4.13 ERA in 24 innings against the Crew in 2011 despite allowing 31 hits and seven walks in those outings. Six current Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Alex Gonzalez 19 .375 .474 .500 .974
Corey Hart 16 .385 .500 .923 1.423
Ryan Braun 15 .538 .600 .923 1.523
Nyjer Morgan 14 .286 .286 .357 .643
Aramis Ramirez 10 .500 .500 .625 1.125
Rickie Weeks 10 .200 .200 .500 .700

He'll face Yovani Gallardo (3.65/4.15 ERA/FIP), who is bound to have a good outing against the Cardinals one of these times. Since getting shelled by the Cardinals on Opening Day Gallardo has posted a 1.71 ERA over 21 innings, walking four and striking out 21. He last pitched against the Rockies on Sunday and allowed a run on six hits over seven innings.

Gallardo enters tonight's game having pitched seven innings in three straight outings. It's the eighth time in his career he's done that, but he's never successfully extended the streak to four. If he does it tonight he'll be tied for the eighth longest such streak of the Miller Park era.

As I alluded to above, Gallardo has struggled against the Cardinals over the years and in 2012. He gave up four home runs to them on Opening Day while lasting just 3.2 innings, and has a 6.17 ERA in 12 career appearances against St. Louis. Six current Cardinals have faced him ten times or more:

Yadier Molina 32 .240 .406 .600 1.006
Matt Holliday 26 .227 .346 .727 1.073
Rafael Furcal 22 .412 .545 .765 1.310
Skip Schumaker 21 .200 .238 .300 .536
Jon Jay 20 .222 .222 .444 .667
David Freese 14 .385 .429 .769 1.198

Mat Gamel is back in the lineup tonight for the first time since Monday:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Corey Hart RF
Mat Gamel 1B
Alex Gonzalez SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Yovani Gallardo P

And in the bullpen:

Mike McClendon pitched two innings (45 pitches) Wednesday.
Jose Veras pitched one inning (27 pitches) Wednesday.
Tim Dillard pitched one inning (8 pitches) Wednesday.
Francisco Rodriguez, John Axford, Kameron Loe and Manny Parra all pitched on Tuesday.

Weather could be a factor tonight for the first time in a Brewer game this season. A storm system is expected to pass through St. Louis early tonight but the radar would imply it should be gone by game time. Temperatures tonight will be in the upper 50's.

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