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Today's Matchup: Brewers (Gallardo) at Cubs (Dempster)

Yovani Gallardo needs a bounce-back performance today.
Yovani Gallardo needs a bounce-back performance today.

The Brewers have a chance to clinch their first series victory of 2012 today.

Ryan Dempster (1.17/1.24 ERA/FIP in 2012, 4.80/3.91 in 2011) stands in the way of that goal, however. He was very good as the Cubs' Opening Day starter on Thursday, allowing one run on just two hits over 7.2 innings against the Nationals. He struck out ten and walked just three in that game, but received a no-decision.

Dempster's effectiveness has been a bit up-and-down over the course of his career, but he's always been pretty good at eating innings. He's pitched 200 innings or more in a season seven times in his career, including each of the last four years. He throws a 90 mph fastball but relies heavily on a slider (nearly one third of all pitches) and a split-finger pitch. The splitter was his best pitch last season.

Dempster has faced the Brewers 47 times in his career, including three times last season. He posted a 4.24 ERA over 17 innings against them in 2011, striking out 17 and walking four. Six Brewer position players have faced him ten times or more:

Ryan Braun 52 .239 .327 .457 .783
Corey Hart 47 .195 .298 .463 .761
Rickie Weeks 45 .243 .356 .270 .626
Aramis Ramirez 25 .273 .320 .273 .593
Cesar Izturis 18 .222 .222 .222 .444
Nyjer Morgan 18 .000 .118 .000 .118

He'll face Yovani Gallardo (14.73/19.31 ERA/FIP in 2012, 3.52/3.59 in 2011), who has some work to do to bounce back from an Opening Day outing to forget. Gallardo lasted just 3.2 innings against the Cardinals on Friday and allowed six earned runs on seven hits, walking five and striking out just three. He enters today's game as the NL leader with six earned runs and four home runs allowed.

Gallardo's velocity could be something to watch today. FanGraphs says he averaged 91.4 mph with his fastball Friday, down from 92.7 last season. He also didn't throw a single changeup in the game, so I guess we can stop talking about him working that back into his arsenal.

Gallardo has faced the Cubs ten times in his career and posted a 2.37 ERA over 19 innings in three starts against them in 2011. He struck out 22 and walked eight in those appearances. Six current Cubs have faced him ten times or more:

Geovany Soto 23 .238 .304 .571 .876
Starlin Castro 19 .389 .421 .556 .977
Alfonso Soriano 17 .176 .176 .235 .412
Marlon Byrd 12 .333 .500 .333 .833
Ian Stewart 12 .500 .500 1.300 1.800
Blake DeWitt 10 .000 .100 .000 .100

Today's Brewer lineup is without Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Jonathan Lucroy and features Norichika Aoki's first MLB start:

Norichika Aoki LF
Nyjer Morgan RF
Rickie Weeks 2B
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Mat Gamel 1B
Alex Gonzalez SS
George Kottaras C
Carlos Gomez CF
Yovani Gallardo P

And in the bullpen:

Jose Veras pitched .1 innings (13 pitches) last night and also pitched on Monday.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched .2 innings (7 pitches) last night and also pitched on Monday.
Kameron Loe pitched two innings (22 pitches) last night.
Marco Estrada pitched one inning (22 pitches) last night.
John Axford pitched .2 innings (26 pitches) on Monday.
Manny Parra pitched .1 innings (7 pitches) on Monday.
Tim Dillard faced one batter (7 pitches) on Monday.

The forecast is better for Wrigley Field today, but still cold. As of this writing it's 45 in Chicago and expected to climb into the upper 40's as the game goes along. The wind is down a bit but is still out of the northwest (blowing in from left) at around 10 mph.