The Brewers continue this week's road trip with 2012's first game in Houston tonight.
At 7:05 tonight they'll face Bud Norris (3.93 ERA, 3.67 FIP), who is 27 years old and arguably having his best major league season. His ERA is up a bit from 2011 (3.77 to 3.95), but his strikeout rate is identical (8.5 per nine innings) and his walk rate is a career-low 2.7 per nine. He pitched six shutout innings against the Pirates on Friday, allowing just three hits and striking out eight without walking a batter. He's pitched 12 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.
Norris' low walk rate is probably partially due to the fact that over 46% of his pitches in 2012 have been strikes, compared to 43.6% last season. He also throws first pitch strikes nearly 60% of the time, and 17% of the balls put in play against him this season have been infield flies. He has a low 90's fastball to go with a very good slider and occasional changeup.
The Brewers knocked Norris around on April 24, scoring seven runs against him on nine hits over 5.2 innings. Travis Ishikawa, Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart all homered in that game. Six Brewers have faced him ten times or more:
He'll face Randy Wolf (5.63 ERA, 4.39 FIP), who is also coming off a very good start. On Friday against the Cubs he pitched six shutout innings and allowed four hits and three walks, striking out five. He's gone three consecutive starts without allowing a home run for the fifth time as a Brewer, but if he can stretch the streak to four starts it will be his longest streak since 2007.
The numbers would suggest Wolf has been the victim of at least some bad luck in 2012. About 45% of the balls put in play against him in 2012 have been ground balls, the highest rate of his career. However, roughly one in ten balls put in play against him in the infield have resulted in hits. That rate is also a career high. As a result, opposing batters are hitting .348 on balls in play against him, up from .286 for his career.
Wolf also faced Norris and the Astros on April 24 and picked up the win, allowing two runs on four hits over six innings. Three current Astros have faced him ten times or more:
As of this writing I haven't seen tonight's lineup. If you have, please drop it in the comments.
And in the bullpen:
John Axford pitched one inning (18 pitches) last night.
Tim Dillard pitched one inning (16 pitches) last night.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched one inning (25 pitches) Monday.
Jose Veras pitched one inning (10 pitches) Monday.
Vinnie Chulk, Manny Parra and Kameron Loe last pitched on Sunday.