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Today's Matchup: Brewers (Greinke) at Cubs (Garza)

Can the Brewers make it four outfield group hugs in as many days?
Can the Brewers make it four outfield group hugs in as many days?

I don't mean to jinx it, but the Brewers have a chance today to sweep the Cubs in a four game set at Wrigley for the first time ever.

Standing between them and their fourth consecutive win is Matt Garza (3.00/3.67 ERA/FIP in 2012, 3.32/2.95 in 2011), making his second start of the young season. Garza is 28 and starting his fifth full season in the big leagues. On Saturday he allowed two runs on five hits to the Nationals over six innings, walking one and striking out five. He only threw 91 pitches in the game.

2011 was Garza's first season as a Cub and easily his best in the big leagues: He had never posted an FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) below 4 until he posted a 2.95 last season while setting a career high with nearly nine strikeouts per nine innings. He has a mid 90's fastball but mixes in a steady dose of sliders, some curveballs and the occasional changeup. The slider is pretty clearly his best pitch.

Garza faced the Brewers three times in 2011 in his first season in the NL. posting a 4.35 ERA over 20.2 innings and striking out 21 while walking seven. Five current Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Alex Gonzalez 16 .214 .250 .286 .536
Cesar Izturis 13 .300 .417 .400 .817
Ryan Braun 10 .333 .400 .778 1.178
Nyjer Morgan 10 .444 .444 .667 1.111
Rickie Weeks 10 .222 .300 .222 .522

He'll face Zack Greinke (3.83/2.98 ERA/FIP in 2012, 4.17/3.34 in 2011), coming off the best start by a Brewer in the first trip through the rotation. Greinke pitched seven shutout innings against the Cardinals on Saturday, allowing just four hits and striking out seven without allowing a walk. He only needed 91 pitches to finish seven innings.

FanGraphs suggests Greinke threw a lot of cutters on Saturday, representing 23% of his pitches. That would be a significant change from 2011, when he didn't throw one at all. His fastball still sits in the mid-to-upper 90's and he's also still mixing in a steady balance of sliders, curves and changeups. The slider was his best pitch in 2011.

Greinke has faced the Cubs three times in his career and all three of those meetings came last season, when he posted a 3.20 ERA and struck them out 26 times over 19.2 innings while walking just seven. Three Cubs have faced him ten times or more:

Marlon Byrd 23 .150 .261 .300 .561
Alfonso Soriano 18 .250 .333 .313 .646
Starlin Castro 10 .286 .500 .429 .929

Aramis Ramirez is getting his first day off of 2012 today:

Rickie Weeks 2B
Nyjer Morgan CF
Ryan Braun LF
Corey Hart RF
Mat Gamel 1B
Alex Gonzalez SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Cesar Izturis 3B
Zack Greinke P

And in the bullpen:

Francisco Rodriguez pitched one inning (29 pitches) yesterday, and has pitched in three straight games.
John Axford pitched one inning (20 pitches) yesterday.
Kameron Loe pitched two innings (22 pitches) Tuesday.
Marco Estrada pitched one inning (22 pitches) Tuesday.
Jose Veras pitched .1 innings (13 pitches) Tuesday.
Manny Parra and Tim Dillard haven't pitched since Monday.

The weather should finally be nice at Wrigley Field today, with temps in the upper 50's and light south winds.