EDITOR'S NOTE: If you're looking for something to do while waiting for tonight's game, I'll be appearing on The Watercooler with Jimmie Kaska on Sports Radio 1400 in Eau Claire at 5:15 and The Sports Den with Downtown Ollie Burrows on SportsFan 100.5 in Wausau at 5:30. - KL
The Brewers have won four of their last five, nine of their last 13 and haven't lost a road game since May 27. Can they keep the hot streak alive tonight?
They'll get a chance against Royals starter Luis Mendoza (5.36 ERA, 4.63 FIP), who is making just his second start since April. He started the season in the rotation but was lifted after four turns and a 6.00 ERA. He's been a little better since, posting a 4.91 ERA over his last six appearances (including one spot start), but has still walked 25 and struck out just 19 this season. He pitched five innings in relief against the Twins on Wednesday and allowed two runs on five hits.
For a pitcher who appears to be a fringe big leaguer, Mendoza is remarkably good at keeping the ball in the ballpark. He hasn't given up a homer in his last 34 innings, spanning eight outings. He works in the low-to-mid 90's and throws his fastball nearly 75% of the time, mixing in a handful of curves and changeups. Only about 43% of his pitches are in the zone.
Mendoza has never faced the Brewers during the regular season. The only current Brewer who has faced him before is Cody Ransom, who is 0-for-1 with a walk.
He'll face Zack Greinke (3.13 ERA, 1.91 FIP), making the return trip to Kansas City for the first time since being traded to the Brewers following the 2010 season. He's allowed one run or less in five of his last six outings, with the only exception being his disaster against the Diamondbacks on May 26. He was excellent against the Cubs on Wednesday, holding them to just two hits over seven shutout innings and striking out a Brewer career-high 12.
Greinke has been great in 2012, but surprisingly there's actually reason to believe he could get a little better. Opposing batters are hitting .357 on balls in play against him this season, up from .318 last year and .311 for his career. He's still striking out over ten batters per nine and his walk rate (2.25 per nine innings) is down from 2011.
Greinke was drafted and developed by the Royals and played in Kansas City from 2004-10, but has never faced them in a regular season game. Yuniesky Betancourt is the only current Royal who has faced him ten times or more: He's 0-for-10 with a pair of strikeouts.
Here's tonight's lineup, which features a DH for the first time:
Corey Hart 1B
Norichika Aoki RF
Ryan Braun LF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Taylor Green DH
Rickie Weeks 2B
Cody Ransom SS
Martin Maldonado C
Nyjer Morgan CF
And in the bullpen:
Francisco Rodriguez pitched one inning (22 pitches) on Sunday and also pitched on Saturday.
John Axford pitched .1 innings (37 pitches) Sunday.
Jose Veras pitched .2 innings (17 pitches) Sunday.
Manny Parra last pitched on Saturday.
Tim Dillard and Kameron Loe last pitched on Friday.
Juan Perez last pitched on Thursday.
The weather in Kansas City should not be a factor tonight. The temperature at gametime should be around 80 and drop into the 70's overnight, with little to no precipitation.