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Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Marcum) vs Cardinals (Jackson)

A 10.5 game lead in the division is what it is: a pretty large margin of error to carry into the season's final month. With that said, it'd be even better if it was 11.5 or more by the end of the day Thursday.

The Brewers will try to take a step in that direction when they send Shaun Marcum (3.38 ERA, 3.59 FIP) to the mound tonight. Like most of the starting pitchers on this team, Marcum has been pretty good recently: He's posted a 2.36 ERA over his last four starts and held opposing batters to a .240/.286/.313 line. He wasn't exceptionally sharp last time out against the Pirates but was still effective, holding them to two runs on four hits and three walks over six innings.

If you're looking for something to watch for tonight, keep an eye on Marcum's strikeout total. At the end of June Marcum was striking out 8.3 batters per nine and had a 3.16 ERA. He hasn't struck out more than five batters in a game in his ten starts since, averaging 5.6 K/9 and posting a 3.73 ERA.

This is Marcum's fourth start against the Cardinals this season, and his results against them so far haven't been positive. He's posted a 5.68 ERA and allowed 20 hits over 19 innings, striking out 13 while walking four. Four current Cardinals have faced him ten times or more:

Corey Patterson 13 .333 .385 .500 .885
Lance Berkman 12 .091 .167 .091 .258
Rafael Furcal 12 .091 .167 .091 .258
Gerald Laird 12 .333 .333 .333 .667

Marcum will face Edwin Jackson (3.94 ERA, 3.71 FIP), who is making just his seventh start as a Cardinal but his third against the Brewers. Over half the runs he's allowed as a Cardinal (13 of 23) have come in his previous two appearances against Milwaukee, as have five of his seven home runs allowed. Jackson beat the Pirates on Thursday, allowing four runs (one earned) on six hits over six innings.

Jackson throws in the mid 90's but will live and die with a slider he throws almost 35% of the time. Both his fastball and slider have been right around league average this season, and his rarely used third pitch (a changeup) has been below.

As I mentioned above, the Brewers have fared pretty well against Jackson this season: They've scored a combined 13 runs (ten earned) on 20 hits over 13 innings against him, and homered five times. Six Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Yuniesky Betancourt 23 .190 .217 .238 .455
Mark Kotsay 13 .200 .385 .300 .685
Ryan Braun 10 .333 .400 .556 .956
Prince Fielder 10 .200 .200 .300 .500
Jerry Hairston Jr. 10 .500 .600 .500 1.100
Casey McGehee 10 .300 .300 1.200 1.500

Corey Hart is also 3-for-6 against Jackson with a walk and two home runs.

Here's tonight's lineup:

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
Shaun Marcum P

And in the bullpen:

John Axford pitched one inning (17 pitches) Sunday, and has appeared in three straight games.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched .1 innings (eight pitches) Sunday, and has appeared in three straight games.
LaTroy Hawkins last pitched on Saturday.
Takashi Saito last pitched on Friday.
Marco Estrada and Kameron Loe last pitched a week ago today.
Chris Narveson and Frankie De La Cruz last pitched on Monday, August 22.