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Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Gallardo) @ Cubs (Wood)

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EDITOR'S NOTE: If you're looking for something to do while waiting for today's game, I'll be making my weekly appearances on The Watercooler with Jimmie Kaska on Sports Radio 1400 in Eau Claire around 5:15 and The Sports Den with Downtown Ollie Burrows on SportsFan100.5 in Wausau at 5:30. - KL

If the Brewers win tonight, tomorrow, Thursday and more or less every day in September, they might get to face Randy Wolf and the Orioles in the World Series. Something to look forward to.

A miraculous run to the postseason would certainly be aided by a strong start from Yovani Gallardo (3.62 ERA, 3.87 FIP), who has been having quite a few strong starts lately. He just beat the Cubs on Wednesday when he allowed two runs on four hits over seven innings, walking two and striking out nine. He's thrown seven or more innings in five consecutive starts.

Today let's talk about Gallardo's walk rate. It's up from last season (from 2.6 to 3.4 per nine innings), but it's been much better lately. He's walked just 12 batters over his last eight starts (almost exactly two per nine innings), and his ERA during that stretch is 3.38. It's not a coincidence that his low-walk rate stretch lines up almost perfectly with his recent streak of seven inning appearances.

This is the fourth time Gallardo has faced the Cubs this season. He beat them on April 11 (7 IP, 1 ER), lost to them on June 5 (6 IP, 5 ER) and beat them again on Wednesday (7 IP, 2 ER). Four current Cubs have faced him ten times or more:

Starlin Castro 28 .400 .429 .520 .949
Alfonso Soriano 23 .174 .174 .348 .522
Darwin Barney 18 .118 .167 .118 .284
David DeJesus 12 .375 .545 1.000 1.545

For the second time in a week he'll face Travis Wood (4.76 ERA, 5.46 FIP). Wood has had a solid August, posting three quality starts and a 4.20 ERA over five appearances, and was pretty good against the Brewers on Wednesday, holding them to three runs on six hits over seven innings. The Cubs have lost Wood's last eight starts.

The Cubs either have Wood on a tight pitch count or the following stat is a weird coincidence: He's thrown between 96 and 99 pitches in each of his five starts in August. That streak is tied for the longest since pitch counts became an official stat, and he's the first pitcher to do it since Jon Lester with the Red Sox in 2006-07.

Wood's Wednesday start was his only one against the Brewers this season. Four current Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Rickie Weeks 15 .071 .133 .286 .419
Ryan Braun 14 .357 .357 .786 1.143
Aramis Ramirez 12 .250 .250 .333 .583
Carlos Gomez 10 .111 .200 .444 .644

Here's tonight's lineup:

Norichika Aoki RF
Rickie Weeks 2B
Ryan Braun LF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Corey Hart 1B
Martin Maldonado C
Carlos Gomez CF
Jeff Bianchi SS
Yovani Gallardo P

And in the bullpen:

Kameron Loe pitched one inning (27 pitches) last night and also pitched on Sunday.
Francisco Rodriguez pitched one inning (15 pitches) last night.
Jim Henderson pitched one inning (15 pitches) last night.
Livan Hernandez pitched one inning (12 pitches) last night.
Manny Parra pitched two innings (25 pitches) Sunday.
Jose Veras pitched one inning (21 pitches) Sunday.
John Axford last pitched on Friday.

It should be a nice night for baseball in Chicago tonight. Expect a game time temperature around 74 falling to around 70 during the game.