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Today's Matchup: Brewers (Hellweg) v Reds (Leake)

There's a five letter word that starts with an S. I'm going to avoid using it to preview the final game in this series which the Brewers lead 2-0.


There are some decisions I simply do not understand.

Today, for example, despite having Tyler Thornburg available on full rest, the Brewers will give Johnny Hellweg (12.79 ERA, 6.22 FIP) a third consecutive turn in the rotation. Hellweg took the Brewers out of the game early against the Mets on Friday, allowing seven runs (three earned) on seven hits over just 3.2 innings. He walked five and struck out none in that game, retiring eleven of the 26 batters he faced.

When looking at Hellweg's scary major league numbers, it becomes difficult to remember that he was a much better pitcher during his time in the minors. He's carrying a 2.82 ERA over 14 AAA starts this season, the second-best ERA in the PCL behind A's prospect Sonny Gray. He's also been bitten a bit by poor defense, as seven of the 16 runs he's allowed this year have been unearned.

Hellweg has never faced the Reds in the majors, but did face their AA affiliate (Pensacola) once last season. I'm pretty sure that outing contains absolutely nothing of relevance to today's contest.

He'll face 25-year-old righthander Mike Leake (2.73 ERA, 3.74 FIP), who is closing in on 600 career innings pitched after coming straight to the majors in his pro debut season in 2010. Leake got knocked around a bit by the Mariners in Friday, allowing four runs on five hits over five innings. Before that, he had allowed three runs or less in nine consecutive starts (posting a 1.31 ERA over that span).

Leake is having his best major league season, and a big chunk of that can be tied to his home run rate. After allowing 1.3 home runs per nine innings from 2010-12, he's giving up just 0.8 this season. For his career about 14% of the fly balls hit against him have left the yard, but that number is down to 10% this season. His line drive rate is also down, from 24.5% a year ago to 18.7% this season.

The Brewers have faced Leake three times in his career, but this is the first time they're seeing him in 2013. No current Brewers have faced him ten times or more, but Rickie Weeks is 5-for-9 against him with a double, triple and two home runs.

Today's lineup is thoroughly depleted in the outfield:

Logan Schafer RF
Jean Segura SS
Carlos Gomez CF
Jonathan Lucroy C
Rickie Weeks 2B
Yuniesky Betancourt 1B
Sean Halton LF
Jeff Bianchi 3B
Johnny Hellweg P

And in the bullpen:

  • Jim Henderson pitched one inning (22 pitches) on Monday.
  • Francisco Rodriguez pitched one inning (21 pitches) on Monday.
  • John Axford pitched .1 innings (12 pitches) on Monday.
  • Brandon Kintzler and Michael Gonzalez last pitched on Sunday.
  • Tyler Thornburg and Burke Badenhop last pitched on Friday.
  • Donovan Hand started on Thursday, and may be available in relief.

It's a picture postcard day in Milwaukee today. Expect a game-time temperature in the mid 70's with winds blowing out to center.