If it feels like the Brewers have been away from home for almost the entire 2011 season, it's because they have. Just seven of their first eighteen (nineteen if you count one postponement) games have been at Miller Park, and they haven't been back in Milwaukee since facing the Cubs on April 10.
But they'll return home tonight to open a homestand with Yovani Gallardo (4.62 ERA/4.59 FIP in 2011) on the mound, making his fifth start of the 2011 season. Gallardo is looking to rebound from a tough start on Sunday, when he allowed seven runs to the Nationals on ten hits in just 5.1 innings.
The sample size is small, but it's worth noting that Gallardo's best work this season came in his two starts at home:
Gallardo faced the Astros twice last season, and in each game he allowed four runs over six innings. The Brewers won both contests. Four Astros have faced him ten times or more:
Gallardo will face off against Nelson Figueroa (7.31 ERA, 2.70 FIP), whose FIP/ERA differential would suggest has been the victim of some tough luck in 2011. Figueroa has allowed 30 baserunners (25 hits, five walks) in his first 16 innings this season, and 18 of them have come around to score. He did look a little better his last time out: He pitched 6.2 innings against the Padres on Saturday and allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits, walking two and striking out five.
Opposing batters are hitting .385 on balls put in play off of Figueroa this season, a ridiculously high number that's almost 100 points over his career mark (.289). Beyond that, there's not many significant changes between the pitcher he was last season and the pitcher he appears to be this year. He still works in the mid-upper 80's and throws a slider and curve, plus the occasional changeup. Over the course of his career the slider has been his only above average pitch.
Figueroa made three relief appearances against the Brewers in 2010, allowing two runs on four hits over 2.1 innings of work. Rickie Weeks is the only Brewer that's faced him ten times: He's 3-or-9 with a double and a walk for a .333/.400/.444 line. Mark Kotsay has faced Figueroa six times and hit .667/.667/1.167.
Figueroa is also a former Brewer: He went 1-7 with a 5.03 for the 2002 team over 30 appearances (11 starts), and was released following the season.
Via Tyler Barnes, here's tonight's lineup:
Rickie Weeks 2B
Carlos Gomez CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Mark Kotsay RF
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Yovani Gallardo P
In the bullpen, everyone is on at least one day's rest following yesterday's off day.