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Today's Matchup: Milwaukee (Estrada) at Pittsburgh (McPherson)

Jogging at a leisurely pace, Ryan Braun steals 2nd base on the Pirates.
Jogging at a leisurely pace, Ryan Braun steals 2nd base on the Pirates.

Kyle McPherson (0-0, 1.54) has had a successful, if brief, rookie season thus far. He has given up one run in two of seven appearances since being called up in mid-August en route to a 3.36 FIP to go along with his 1.54 ERA. However, tonight will be the first start he will make in the majors as he takes James McDonald's rotation spot. In his major league run, McPherson has an 8.49 K/9 and a 1.54 BB/9. Both those numbers could perhaps be expected to take a hit as he enters the rotation.

He has had similar K/9s in the minors before, including a 9.7 K/9 in 2010 and an 8.5 K/9 this season before his call-up. However, he has averaged just 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings and major league hitters should be better able to identify his stuff while he's in a starters role. He has been very successful limiting his walks, with a 1.5 minor league BB/9. McPherson was rated the seventh best prospect in the Pirates system by John Sickels after a 2011 campaign that saw McPherson post a 2.96 ERA between High-A and Double-A. In twelve starts between Double-A and Triple-A this year he has a 3.22 ERA.

In a small major league sample size, McPherson has shown himself to be a two-pitch pitcher. He throws a 94 MPH four-seamer and a 77 MPH curveball. As those numbers have come in a relief role, we could reasonably expect his fastball velocity to come down slightly as he starts. McPherson, of course, has not faced a Brewers hitter at least ten times.

For the Brewers, Marco Estrada (3-6, 3.77) will be taking the mound. If you were asked who the Brewers best starter was over the last 30 days, the answer would clearly be Estrada. It's not really even close as pretty much anyway you cut it, Estrada has been the most valuable starter on the team. Take a look at him compared to the other Milwaukee starters, over the past 30 days:

Player Starts K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA FIP xFIP fWAR
Marco Estrada 5 11.53 1.82 0.30 1.52 1.58 2.73 1.3
Wily Peralta 3 5.40 2.70 0.00 1.80 2.80 3.75 0.6
Mark Rogers 3 9.98 4.70 1.17 2.35 4.14 4.55 0.2
Yovani Gallardo 6 9.39 3.76 1.41 3.29 4.30 3.22 0.4
Mike Fiers 5 9.55 3.94 0.66 4.28 3.24 3.64 0.6
Shaun Marcum 5 7.61 3.04 1.52 5.70 4.75 4.41 0.1

So, yeah, Estrada has been outstanding lately. His latest start, against the Braves, he went 6.2 shut-out innings. Estrada allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out six. Most importantly, he has squelched his home run troubles that cost him so much earlier in the season. Since the beginning of August, Estrada has given up just one long ball in eight starts. Estrada, who was taken off waivers from the Nationals in February of 2010, is starting to look like one of the best scrap-heap pick-ups Doug Melvin has ever had.

Estrada has faced four Pirates hitters at least ten times. Here is how they have fared:

Player PA Line
Garrett Jones 13 .231/.231/.231
Andrew McCutchen 13 .231/.231/.538
Neil Walker 11 .200/.273/.400
Pedro Alvarez 10 .200/.200/.500


In the bullpen:

Jim Henderson pitched 0.1 innings (6 pitches) yesterday.
Kameron Loe pitched one inning (13 pitches) yesterday.
Jose Veras pitched one inning (21 pitches) yesterday.

John Axford
pitched one inning (19 pitches) on Sunday and also pitched on Saturday.
Francisco Rodriguez and Brandon Kintzler last pitched on Saturday.
Manny Parra, Tyler Thornburg, Josh Stinson and Livan Hernandez last pitched on Friday.

It's a bit chilly in Pittsburgh, with temperatures in the 50's for the game. The skies are clear, though, with no rain expected.