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Game Thread #8: Brewers (3-4) v. Cubs (3-3)

I don't know how many times I'm going to have to write a paragraph like this, but we're already well beyond the acceptable number of them.

The Brewers play the Cubs in the first Friday night game of the season tonight, but for a large portion of their potential audience won't get to see it. Let's review what we know:

  • Despite the fact that the Bucks are 32-46 and aren't going to make the playoffs in a league where over half the teams get in, FSWisconsin is covering them tonight instead.
  • As such, local coverage of the Brewers is bumped to WMLW. If you're in the Milwaukee area, that's your legal option for video. There's no HD and their SD picture is significantly below average, but at least you can see it.
  • MLB Network is covering tonight's game as part of their regional coverage, but it will be blacked out in the Brewers and Cubs' "local markets." Those markets combine to cover all of Wisconsin and Iowa, most of Illinois and Indiana and parts of Minnesota and Michigan. If you're outside of those markets, you can see the game that way.
  • The rest of us appear to be out of luck. I asked FS Wisconsin, MLB Network and Brewers VP of Communications Tyler Barnes for help via Twitter this afternoon, but received no response.

For those of us within the Brewer local market but outside of the reach of WMLW, this is the third time in four days the Brewer game has not been available. It's also the fourth time in seven games since Saturday.

Current Series

3 game series vs Cubs @ Miller Park

Chicago Cubs
@ Milwaukee Brewers

Friday, Apr 8, 2011, 7:10 PM CDT
Miller Park

Carlos Zambrano vs Randy Wolf

Partly cloudy. Winds blowing in from left field at 5-15 m.p.h. Game time temperature around 45.

Friday's Frosty Mug

Complete Coverage >

Sat 04/09 6:10 PM CDT
Sun 04/10 1:10 PM CDT

Follow the jump for tonight's pitching matchup, lineup and more.

Randy Wolf (13.50/8.64 ERA/FIP in 2011, 4.17/4.85 in 2010) got roughed up a bit in his first start on Sunday, but will look to bounce back tonight. Wolf allowed six runs on ten hits to the Reds over four innings, walking two and striking out five. Wolf also had a pretty rough go of it in spring training (8.74 ERA), so it'd be nice if he could have a solid outing and prove this isn't a trend.

I think many of us remember Wolf as being a slow starter last year, but that's not entirely true. Wolf actually posted a 3.34 ERA in five April starts in 2010, before dropping off and posting ERAs of 5.45 or above in May, June and July.

The sample size is low, of course, but FanGraphs would suggest Wolf didn't use his fastball much on Sunday, throwing it just 45% of the time. He compensated with more curves and changeups than he usually throws. It'll be interesting to see if that trend holds.

Wolf faced the Cubs twice last season and the Brewers lost both games. That, however, is the only fact these two outings have in common:

June 9 4.2 9 8 8 2 1
September 11 8 4 1 1 1 6

Wolf allowed five home runs in the June 9 contest. Four Cub position players have faced him ten times or more:

Alfonso Soriano 31 .192 .290 .423 .713
Aramis Ramirez 26 .200 .231 .360 .591
Geovany Soto 20 .316 .350 .684 1.034
Jeff Baker 12 .333 .333 .417 .750

Marlon Byrd is also 3-for-7 against Wolf with a pair of home runs.

Wolf will face Carlos Zambrano (4.50/5.47 ERA/FIP in 2011, 3.33/3.71 in 2010), looking for his first win. Zambrano pitched a quality start on Saturday against the Pirates (6 IP, 3 R, 5 H, 3 BB, 4 K), but received a no decision as the Cubs lost 5-3.

Zambrano won't turn 30 until June, but his numbers would suggest he might already be in the decline phase of his career. His inning count has gone down in each of the last three seasons (from 216.1 in 2007 to 129.2 last season) and while he averaged 4.5 fWAR from 2003 to 2006, he's only cracked three once in the last four years. His velocity is also decreasing: He averaged just 89 mph on his fastball on Saturday, down from 93 in the mid 2000's and 90.1 last season. His fastball and cutter were still his best pitches in 2010, though.

Zambrano faced the Brewers five times last season, twice as a reliever and three times as a starter:

April 15 5 8 4 3 3 7
April 24 1.1 2 1 1 1 1
June 9 5 2 3 3 5 2
August 4 1 1 0 0 1 2
September 10 8.2 3 0 0 3 9

Seven Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Prince Fielder 56 .341 .518 .610 1.128
Rickie Weeks 46 .190 .261 .310 .570
Craig Counsell 41 .242 .366 .303 .669
Ryan Braun 38 .257 .316 .371 .687
Nyjer Morgan 21 .350 .381 .350 .731
Casey McGehee 16 .214 .313 .429 .741
Mark Kotsay 10 .111 .200 .111 .311

Here's tonight's lineup:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Carlos Gomez CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Nyjer Morgan RF
George Kottaras C
Randy Wolf P

And in the bullpen:

Kameron Loe pitched one inning (18 pitches) yesterday, and also pitched on Wednesday.
John Axford pitched one inning (17 pitches) yesterday, and also pitched on Wednesday.
Mitch Stetter pitched .2 innings (13 pitches) yesterday.
Sergio Mitre pitched .1 innings (1 pitch) yesterday.
Zach Braddock pitched one inning (16 pitches) Wednesday.
Takashi Saito last pitched on Monday, and is dealing with a sore hamstring.
Sean Green hasn't pitched since Sunday.

Enjoy the game!