Today is, you know, kind of a big deal.
For the second time in four years, the Brewers open postseason play today with Yovani Gallardo (3.52 ERA, 3.59 FIP) on the mound. This time, however, Gallardo is a little better prepared: He was coming off what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in 2008, and had made just one regular season appearance since surgery before being thrown into the fire. This season he's about as hot as he's ever been, and on Friday he struck out eleven Marlins while allowing a run on seven hits and no walks over 7.1 innings.
I'm not sure what changed for Gallardo, but August 11 seems to be a turning point. Gallardo had a rough start that day in a loss to the Cardinals, and left the game having struck out just 7.8 batters per nine innings this season. He's struck out 74 in 53 innings since, including three starts in a row with eleven strikeouts or more for the first time in franchise history.
Gallardo made two starts against the Diamondbacks during the regular season and was good in both of them: Overall he allowed four runs (two earned) on eight hits over 13 innings, walking two and striking out 12. The Brewers won both games. Only two Diamondbacks have faced him ten times or more:
Gallardo will face Ian Kennedy (2.88 ERA, 3.22 FIP), who is having a breakout year in his age 26 season. Kennedy threw 222 innings this season and is only the third pitcher in franchise history to pitch over 220 with an ERA under 3 (Randy Johnson five times, Curt Schilling once). He's also got pretty remarkable control: He's walking just 2.2 batters per nine innings while striking out eight.
Kennedy's fastball sits right around 90, but it's his best pitch. He'll complement it with a changeup, curve and occasionally a cutter. Kennedy's fastball has been worth +1.58 runs per 100 pitches this season: Only R.A. Dickey's (+1.84) and Cliff Lee's (+1.74) have been better.
Kennedy faced the Brewers one time this season: On July 21 he shut them out for seven innings, holding them to four hits and two walks while striking out five. Rickie Weeks is the only Brewer who's seen him ten times: He's 2-for-10 with a double. Prince Fielder is 2-for-8 with a HBP and a home run.
Here's today's lineup:
Corey Hart RF
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Rickie Weeks 2B
Jerry Hairston Jr 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Yovani Gallardo P
And in the bullpen:
John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez and Takashi Saito pitched in the season finale on Wednesday.
Kameron Loe and LaTroy Hawkins pitched on Tuesday.
Marco Estrada hasn't pitched since Monday.
Chris Narveson last pitched on Sunday.
The roof is closed and we're ready for baseball. Enjoy the game!