The road has not been kind to the Brewers lately, but perhaps that's just because they've been missing PNC Park. Tonight they'll play their first game of the season in Pittsburgh, a place where they've gone 10-5 since the start of the 2010 season.
They'll face Wandy Rodriguez (4.00 ERA, 4.02 FIP), a midseason trade acquisition the Pirates may wish they could give back. Rodriguez has posted a 5.06 ERA in five appearances since joining the Pirates and is striking out just five batters per nine innings, down from six this season as an Astro and 7.5 for his career. He pitched two shutout innings in relief on Sunday to finish out the Pirates' 19 inning win over the Cardinals, so he hasn't started a game since August 15.
Part of the reason Rodriguez's strikeout numbers are down this season might be counter intuitive: He's throwing a lot of strikes. Over 50% of his pitches this season are in the zone according to Pitch F/x, and when opposing batters swing at pitches in the zone they're making contact 91% of the time. His stuff still looks similar to what it's always been, with high-80's fastball, a lot of curves and some changeups.
The Brewers faced Rodriguez on July 7 when he was still an Astro, and plated two unearned runs on four hits against him over 5.1 innings. Five current Brewers have faced him ten times or more:
Rodriguez will face Mike Fiers (2.90 ERA, 2.62 FIP), who is facing the Pirates for the second time. To this point Fiers' 14 big league starts have come against 13 opponents, with the Reds being the only team that has seen him twice. Fiers struggled a bit against the Phillies on Saturday and allowed four runs on five hits over five innings.
Fiers could really use a good outing tonight to prove he's not regressing. He's allowed a combined 12 runs in his last two starts and on Saturday he allowed two home runs after giving up just three in his previous 82 innings. He's also in uncharted territory innings-wise: He's thrown 142 between AAA and the majors in 2012 after setting a career high with 128 last season.
Fiers faced the Pirates in his second major league start on June 3 and picked up the loss, allowing four runs on eight hits over five innings. Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones took him deep in that game. No current Pirate has faced him more than three times.
As of this writing tonight's lineup has not been posted. If you've seen it, please drop it in the comments.
Here's the bullpen situation, helped significantly by a day off and Gallardo's long start Wednesday:
Jim Henderson pitched one inning (22 pitches) Wednesday and also pitched on Tuesday.
John Axford pitched one inning (21 pitches) Wednesday and also pitched on Tuesday.
Kameron Loe, Manny Parra and Francisco Rodriguez last pitched on Tuesday.
Livan Hernandez, Jose Veras and Mike McClendon last pitched on Monday.
It's hot in Pittsburgh today but should cool off a bit tonight. Expect the temperature at game time to be around 80 with no rain in the forecast.