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Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Gallardo) at Astros (Happ)

The Brewers can't quite mathematically eliminate the Astros this weekend, but they could get closer.

Tonight they'll get another shot at J.A. Happ (6.01 ERA, 4.83 FIP), one of only two pitchers in all of baseball this season with over 100 innings pitched and an ERA over 6 (John Lackey of the Red Sox is the other). He's been pretty bad all season but he's been worse lately: He's allowed at least five earned runs in six of his last seven starts. The only exception was his last time out, when he allowed five runs but only two were earned. He has an 8.41 ERA since June 20.

Happ sits right around 90 with his fastball, and works in a pretty even mix of sliders (12.2% of all pitches), changeups (11.2%) and curves (10.4%). The slider and curve have both been significantly below average this season at -3.64 and -2.60 runs per 100, respectively, while the changeup is pretty good, at +0.98. Happ will also walk a fair number of batters: He's at 4.68 per nine innings this season, and right around four for his career.

This is Happ's second consecutive start against the Brewers: As I mentioned above he allowed five runs (three unearned) on ten hits over five innings on Saturday. Corey Hart led off that game with a home run. Four Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Ryan Braun 13 .083 .154 .333 .487
Prince Fielder 13 .417 .462 .583 1.045
Corey Hart 13 .545 .615 1.000 1.615
Casey McGehee 11 .200 .182 .300 .482

Just like he did on Saturday, Happ will face Yovani Gallardo (3.69 ERA, 3.63 FIP). Gallardo had one bad start in July but for the most part had a very good month: Even when you include his disaster start against the Rockies he posted a 3.08 ERA in six starts over the month and averaged 6.1 innings per appearance. He's allowed just three earned runs in his last 20 innings.

Gallardo's pitch selection this season tells an interesting story. His slider has been his best pitch throughout his major league career, but it's below average this season at -0.28 runs per 100. His curveball is also lurking right around league average. Meanwhile, he's throwing the best fastball (+0.55 runs per 100) he's thrown in any major league season. He's also pretty significantly lowered his walk rate (2.93 per nine, down from 3.56) despite the fact that only about 43% of his pitches are strikes.

Tonight will be the third time Gallardo has faced the Astros this season. He pitched six innings in a 14-7 Brewer win on April 22 and allowed four runs on eight hits, and he held them to one unearned run on four hits over seven innings on Saturday. All told, he's struck out 14 and walked one in 13 innings against them. Three Astros have faced him ten times or more:

Carlos Lee 32 .241 .281 .379 .661
Humberto Quintero 15 .308 .400 .385 .785
Clint Barmes 11 .000 .000 .000 .000

Here's tonight's lineup:

Corey Hart RF
Jerry Hairston Jr CF
Ryan Braun LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Yuniesky Betancourt SS
Felipe Lopez 2B
Jonathan Lucroy C
Yovani Gallardo P

And in the bullpen:

John Axford pitched one inning (22 pitches) on Wednesday, and also pitched on Tuesday.
LaTroy Hawkins pitched one inning (10 pitches) on Wednesday.
Kameron Loe pitched one inning (10 pitches) on Wednesday.
Marco Estrada, Francisco Rodriguez and Takashi Saito last pitched on Tuesday.
Tim Dillard is helping Mrs. Stetter meet Nick Carter.

Now go Prognostikeg before it's too late!