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Today's Matchup: Brewers (Wolf) vs Cardinals (Jackson)

It's hard to have a "must win" game when you're 2.5 up in the division, but this certainly feels like one.

The Brewers will send Randy Wolf (3.44 ERA, 4.27 FIP) to the mound today with the hopes of completing a series victory. He's coming off one of his best outings of the season, having pitched seven shutout innings on just four hits and three walks against the Astros on Friday. He threw 117 pitches in that game en route to his first win in over a month.

Wolf has lowered his walk rate a bit in 2011 (from 3.6 to 3.1 per nine innings) despite the fact that his pitches aren't really in the strike zone all that often. FanGraphs says he's throwing just 46% of pitches in the zone (a career low), and throwing first pitch strikes to just 58% of batters. That's probably not a recipe for long-term success, but it's working for him right now.

Wolf picked up the loss in his only other start against the Cardinals this season, getting tagged for six runs on seven hits over five innings on May 6. Six Cardinals have faced him ten times or more:

Albert Pujols 40 .313 .375 .563 .938
Rafael Furcal 39 .211 .205 .211 .416
Matt Holliday 37 .250 .351 .500 .851
Lance Berkman 33 .111 .273 .185 .458
Yadier Molina 26 .192 .192 .423 .615
Ryan Theriot 26 .250 .308 .292 .599

He'll face Edwin Jackson (3.78 ERA, 3.21 FIP), who is making his second start since joining the Cardinals, his sixth major league team in nine seasons. These numbers are skewed a bit by the fact that Jackson opened his career as a 19 year old with the Dodgers, but he has a career 5.15 ERA in the NL, compared to a 4.33 in the AL. Jackson was very good against the Cubs on Friday, allowing a run on seven hits over seven innings. He walked two and struck out four in the game.

Jackson works in the mid 90's with his fastball but throws a ton of sliders, over 36% of all pitches according to FanGraphs. He'll also throw the occasional changeup, but roughly 90% of the balls coming out of his hand are either fastballs or sliders. Both are plus pitches this season.

Jackson last faced the Brewers on May 7, 2010 when the Crew beat him 3-2. He allowed three runs on six hits over seven innings in that game. Four Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Yuniesky Betancourt 16 .214 .250 .286 .536
Mark Kotsay 12 .222 .417 .333 .750
Felipe Lopez 11 .400 .455 .600 1.055
Jerry Hairston Jr. 10 .500 .600 .500 1.100

Lopez and Betancourt will get another shot at Jackson today, but Hairston will not:

Corey Hart RF
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Felipe Lopez 2B
George Kottaras C
Randy Wolf P

And in the bullpen:

Marco Estrada pitched two innings (33 pitches) last night.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched one inning (15 pitches) last night.
John Axford pitched one inning (18 pitches) last night.
Takashi Saito pitched one inning (14 pitches) last night.
LaTroy Hawkins
pitched two innings (27 pitches) Monday.
Kameron Loe pitched one inning (13 pitches) Monday.
Tim Dillard is writing, producing and directing a new live action TMNT movie...all in the bullpen.