Now that the trade deadline has passed we can all settle in for a distraction-free contest between two teams that enter play a combined 44 games under .500 in July.
With that said, most of the Brewers' 2012 struggles aren't Yovani Gallardo's (4.07 ERA, 3.93 FIP) fault. He's on pace to pitch 200 innings for the second consecutive season and is striking out better than nine batters per nine innings for the fourth consecutive season. He got roughed up by the Nationals on Thursday, though, allowing seven runs on seven hits over five innings.
It's only two starts, but it's worth noting that Gallardo's struggles lately are a massive change from his recent trend. From May 2-July 15 Gallardo posted a 2.84 ERA over 88.2 innings and worked six innings or more in 14 consecutive outings. He's allowed eleven runs in 10.2 innings over two starts since, and has failed to complete the sixth in both games.
Gallardo beat the Astros on July 6, allowing one run on just four hits over six innings with three walks and six strikeouts. No current Astros have faced him ten times or more, which isn't surprising since most of the Astros barely have ten MLB plate appearances.
They'll face rookie lefty Dallas Keuchel (4.63 ERA, 6.56 FIP), making his seventh major league start. Keuchel was a seventh round pick in 2009 out of Arkansas, and posted a 3.81 ERA over 81 minor league appearances before being called up. He's posted a 9.00 ERA over three starts in July and was roughed up on Thursday, allowing five runs to the Pirates on five hits over six innings. He's given up five home runs in his last two starts.
Keuchel doesn't throw very hard (average fastball velocity of 87.8 mph) and is striking out just 3.3 batters per nine innings in the majors. Combine that with nearly five walks per nine innings and his MLB debut season might be a disaster if not for a .228 opposing average on balls in play.
Here's an excerpt from John Sickels' note on Keuchel in his 2012 Baseball Prospect Book:
Keuchel's best pitch is a decent changeup. He'll mix in some curves and sliders, but his fastball is just 85-88 MPH, so he has to be very careful about location. He could be a fifth starter or long reliever, throwing strikes with his sinker and changeup.
Sickels gave Keuchel a C grade before the season. No current Brewers have faced him in the majors.
Ryan Braun is back in the lineup tonight:
Norichika Aoki RF
Carlos Gomez CF
Ryan Braun LF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Corey Hart 1B
Rickie Weeks 2B
Martin Maldonado C
Cody Ransom SS
Yovani Gallardo P
And in the bullpen:
Kameron Loe faced two batters (11 pitches) last night and has appeared in three straight games.
Livan Hernandez pitched 1.1 innings (37 pitches) last night, and also pitched on Sunday.
John Axford pitched .2 innings (8 pitches) last night and also pitched on Sunday.
Jose Veras pitched 1.1 innings (35 pitches) on Sunday.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched .1 innings (15 pitches) on Sunday.
Jim Henderson pitched .1 innings (2 pitches) on Sunday and was unavailable last night.
Mike McClendon last pitched for Nashville on Thursday.
Manny Parra last pitched on Tuesday, July 24 and was unavailable last night due to shoulder irritation.
It's a beautiful day in Milwaukee, with temperatures in the upper 70's and no rain in the forecast. Expect the Miller Park roof to be open.