Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Gallardo) at Astros (Happ)

The Brewers and Astros play 12 more times this season, counting tonight.

J.A. Happ (4.81 ERA, 4.34 FIP) will be on the mound tonight to start the first of those games. He's actually bouncing back pretty nicely from a bad 2011 season, and has recorded three straight quality starts. He was a tough luck loser against the Cubs on Saturday, allowing three runs on five hits over six innings. He walked four, struck out six and threw 109 pitches in that outing.

Happ's peripheral numbers would suggest he's been a much better pitcher in 2012 but has had some bad luck. His strikeout rate is up (8.8 per nine after 7.7 last season), his walks are down (from 4.8 to 3.6) and over 45% of the balls put in play against him are hit on the ground. His home run rate is also up, though, and batters are hitting .324 on balls in play against him.

Happ beat the Brewers on May 17 by pitching six shutout innings, allowing seven hits and a walk while striking out four. Four current Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Ryan Braun 22 .300 .364 .650 1.014
Corey Hart 22 .444 .545 .833 1.379
Rickie Weeks 13 .545 .615 1.000 1.615
Carlos Gomez 10 .222 .300 .222 .522

He'll face Yovani Gallardo (3.87 ERA, 4.00 FIP), coming off what might have been his best performance of the season on Sunday. Gallardo pitched 6.2 shutout innings against the Diamondbacks and allowed just three hits, but walked five while striking out six. He needed 117 pitches to get through the outing and has now thrown 103 or more pitches in 12 consecutive outings. That's tied for the third longest streak by a Brewer since pitch counts became an official stat:

Player Season Games
Cal Eldred 1994 16
Yovani Gallardo 2010 15
Jaime Navarro 1991 12
Yovani Gallardo 2012 12

What Gallardo lacks in efficiency he's made up for lately with consistency: He's pitched quality starts in eleven of his last 12 outings, lowering his ERA from 6.08 on April 27 to his current 3.87. His walk numbers are becoming a concern, though: He handed out just 2.56 free passes per nine innings last season and has ballooned to 4.13 in 2012.

Gallardo has faced the Astros 12 times in his career and is undefeated against them since 2009, but this is his first time pitching against them this season. No current Astros have faced him ten times or more, and the 13 that have seen him at least once are hitting a combined .113/.130/.132 against him.

As of this writing today's lineup has not been released. If you've seen it, please drop it in the comments.

In the bullpen:

Manny Parra pitched .1 innings (4 pitches) yesterday and has appeared in three straight games.
Jose Veras pitched 1.1 innings (27 pitches) yesterday.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched one inning (17 pitches) Wednesday.
John Axford pitched one inning (16 pitches) Wednesday.
Kameron Loe pitched .1 innings (6 pitches) Wednesday.
Livan Hernandez last pitched on Tuesday.
Tim Dillard last pitched on Saturday.

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