Today's Matchup: Brewers (Fiers) at Pirates (Rodriguez)

Mike Fiers (3.23 ERA, 2.77 FIP) goes to the mound today to make his 20th start of the season for the Brewers and 30th overall. This is already his third start against the Pirates in 2012. The last time he faced them on August 24th he struck out 10. That probably won't happen today; that was his last start in which he struck out more than 6 batters. I know a lot of people find the "quality start" stat to be useless; for me it is a good shorthand for how long a pitcher can last in a game and keep an ERA around 3.00. Fiers had 4 quality starts in August but none in September and he's been having problems both sticking around past the 5th inning and giving up less than 4 runs per start.

The Pirates counter with LHP Wandy Rodriguez (3.65 ERA, 3.86 FIP.) We've seen what teams do with their rotations when they think they're in pennant races. Rich, well-stocked teams like the Angels can trade useful pieces of the farm for Zach Greinke; poor, well-stocked teams like the A's use their stock to fill up other parts while calling up the major-league ready starters in their organization. The Pirates had some nice pieces on their farm which they used to acquire Wandy Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a perfectly serviceable pitcher and is easily up there with A.J. Burnett in the role of "staff ace"--especially after Jeff Karstens went down with an injury in late August, ending his surprising run of starts--but he's not the sort of name that brings excitement to a fanbase. I just think a lot of people, mostly due to the fact he's been stuck with the Astros most of his career, don't realize how good he is. This year may be proving that. His strikeout rate has declined steadily over the past few seasons with this year being the lowest of his career, but his walk rate is also the lowest of his career. He's still the groundball machine he's been since his debut in 2005.

Rodriguez has a large track record against the Brewers, with the mainstays of the lineup facing him over 40 times in their careers. Ryan Braun has 14 hits against Rodriguez; 4 of those have been home runs. PNC Park is a different environment for home runs than either Miller Park or Minute Maid Park, however. Let's see what happens today.

Lineups:

Milwaukee Brewers Pittsburgh Pirates
Norichika Aoki RF Starling Marte LF
Rickie Weeks 2B Travis Snider RF
Ryan Braun LF Andrew McCutchen CF
Aramis Ramirez 3B Garrett Jones 1B
Corey Hart 1B Neil Walker 2B
Jonathan Lucroy C Pedro Alvarez 3B
Carlos Gomez CF Clint Barmes SS
Jean Segura SS Rod Barajas C
Mike Fiers P Wandy Rodriguez P

Bullpen usage (not very much!):

John Axford pitched 1 inning (23 pitches) last night.
Jim Henderson pitched 1 inning (18 pitches) last night and 0.1 inning (6 pitches) Tuesday.
Kameron Loe pitched 1 inning (13 pitches) Tuesday.
Jose Veras pitched 1 inning (21 pitches) Tuesday.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched 1 inning (18 pitches) Saturday.
Brandon Kintzler pitched 1 inning (22 pitches) Saturday.
Tyler Thornburg pitched 1 inning (18 pitches) Friday.
Josh Stinson pitched 1 inning (25 pitches) Friday.
Manny Parra pitched 0.1 inning (21 pitches) Friday.
Livan Hernandez pitched 1.2 innings (18 pitches) Friday.

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