The Brewers will be looking for their 13th home win in 14 opportunities tonight at Miller Park, and they'll be doing it with Yovani Gallardo (3.67 ERA, 3.67 FIP) on the mound. Gallardo is pitching deeper into games this season and is on pace to set a career high with 205 innings pitched, which would be 20 more than he was able to throw in 2010. He had a poor start against the Cardinals on Thursday, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits and pitching just five innings. Even with that start, he's gone seven or more in six of his last nine outings.
Gallardo's strikeout rate is down significantly this season (from 9.73 per nine in 2010 to 7.76 in 2011) but so is his walk rate (3.65 to 2.80), and that's a pretty fair trade. His mix of pitches and ability to throw strikes (42.6% of pitches in the zone in 2011) are roughly the same as they were last year, so I'm not sure what's caused the shift. For whatever reason, opposing batters are swinging at his pitches outside the zone over 4% more often in 2011.
Gallardo hasn't faced the Dodgers this season, but his career track record isn't very good against them: He's allowed 20 earned runs in 16.2 innings over three starts since 2009. No current Dodgers have faced him ten times or more but Casey Blake, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and James Loney are a combined 10-for-34 with two walks, three doubles and a homer.
He'll face Chad Billingsley (4.17 ERA, 3.55 FIP), who is already pitching his sixth major league season despite the fact that he didn't turn 27 until a few weeks ago. He's already thrown 970.1 career innings, which would be the 12th most in Brewer history, and has won at least ten games in five straight seasons. He's been roughed up a bit lately, though, posting a 5.40 ERA in his last five outings. On Wednesday he pitched just 4.1 innings against the Phillies and allowed five runs (two earned) on seven hits.
Billingsley works in the low 90's with his fastball but his best pitch is a cutter, which he throws over 20% of the time and FanGraphs estimates at +0.95 runs per 100. He also has a plus curve and a changeup he'll mix in on occasion.
Billingsley hasn't faced the Brewers this season, but allowed four runs on six hits in his only start against them in 2010. Two current Brewers have faced him ten times or more:
Tonight's lineup is as follows:
Corey Hart RF
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Jerry Hairston Jr 2B
Jonathan Lucroy C
Yovani Gallardo P
And in the bullpen:
John Axford pitched one inning (9 pitches) last night, and has appeared in three straight games.
Takashi Saito pitched one inning (23 pitches) Sunday.
LaTroy Hawkins pitched .1 innings (one pitch) Sunday.
Francisco Rodriguez last pitched on Saturday.
Kameron Loe last pitched on Friday.
Tim Dillard and Frankie De La Cruz last pitched on Thursday.