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Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Narveson) vs Cardinals (Lohse)

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Grab something to drink and get comfortable, folks, because you're not going to want to miss this game.

When the Brewers and Cardinals meet in a matchup of NL Central leaders tonight, Chris Narveson (4.85 ERA, 3.37 FIP) will take the mound. Narveson has struggled lately (10.66 ERA over his last three starts), and the culprit has been primarily the big inning. He's allowed a four run inning in each of his last three starts, and those innings combine for 12 of the 15 runs he's allowed over that span. On Sunday against the Marlins the sixth inning was the issue: He allowed four runs on two hits and two walks and was unable to finish the frame.

The sample size is relatively small, but Narveson's splits from this season suggest he hits the wall in two likely related situations: After his 50th pitch and during his third trip through the batting order.

Split AVG OBP SLG OPS
Overall .264 .331 .388 .719
Pitches 51-75 .299 .356 .463 .819
Facing opposing batter for third time .321 .385 .518 .902

Narveson picked up the loss when facing the Cardinals on May 8, allowing three runs on seven hits over six innings, with a walk and five strikeouts. Five current Cardinals have faced him ten times or more:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Colby Rasmus 19 .353 .389 .529 .918
Albert Pujols 18 .333 .500 .833 1.333
Yadier Molina 15 .231 .286 .385 .670
Lance Berkman 10 .400 .400 .800 1.200
Ryan Theriot 10 .300 .300 .300 .600

Narveson will face Kyle Lohse (2.41 ERA, 2.89 FIP), who is one of the most effective pitchers in baseball who doesn't strike many batters out. There are only four pitchers in the major leagues who have enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, strike out less than six batters per nine and have a sub-3.00 ERA, but Lohse is one of them:

Pitcher Team K/9 ERA
Jair Jurrjens Braves 5.24 1.82
Kyle Lohse Cardinals 5.44 2.41
Charlie Morton Pirates 5.04 2.53
Phil Humber White Sox 5.14 2.87

Lohse was hit around a bit by the Cubs on Saturday, allowing four runs on eleven hits over 5.2 innings, striking out five while walking none. The Cardinals went on to win the game 5-4.

Lohse's repertoire is pretty average: He throws a high-80's fastball, changeup, slider and the occasional curve. The difference this season is that all of his off speed and breaking pitches have been effective: FanGraphs estimates the change, slider and curve's values at +4.24, +3.07 and +2.26 runs per 100, respectively. That's probably not sustainable, but it's very impressive.

Lohse was a tough luck loser against the Brewers on May 7, allowing just one run on six hits over eight innings, walking two and striking out three. Seven Brewers have faced him ten times or more, and six of the seven are starting tonight:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG OPS
Craig Counsell 29 .464 .483 .679 1.161
Prince Fielder 28 .261 .393 .304 .697
Rickie Weeks 26 .250 .308 .292 .599
Ryan Braun 25 .333 .360 .583 .943
Mark Kotsay 13 .077 .077 .077 .154
Casey McGehee 13 .308 .308 .538 .846
Corey Hart 12 .083 .083 .083 .167

Via Adam McCalvy, here's tonight's lineup:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Corey Hart RF
Craig Counsell SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Chris Narveson P

And in the bullpen:

Sergio Mitre pitched two innings (31 pitches) last night.
Tim Dillard pitched two innings (15 pitches) last night.
Marco Estrada pitched one inning (22 pitches) last night.
John Axford pitched one inning (18 pitches) Wednesday.
Kameron Loe pitched 0.2 innings (18 pitches) Wednesday.
Zach Braddock pitched 0.2 innings (15 pitches) Wednesday.
LaTroy Hawkins hasn't pitched since Tuesday.