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Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Estrada) v Cubs (Samardzija)

Can the Brewers win for the fifth time in six tries?

Mark Hirsch

At 66 wins, this is currently the 37th best Brewer team in franchise history. The 1977, 1984 and 2004 teams all won 67 games and are tied for 34th.

The Brewers will get a shot at win #67 at 7:10 tonight when Marco Estrada (4.29 ERA, 4.18 FIP) takes the mound. Estrada was excellent in a no decision against the Cardinals on Wednesday, allowing a single run on just two hits over 6.2 innings with three walks and six strikeouts. He threw 101 pitches in that game, the most he's thrown in six starts since coming off the DL.

It's hard to discuss Estrada's 2013 numbers without pointing out the turning point in his season. He had a 5.32 ERA on June 3 before going on the DL, and now has a 2.39 mark in six starts since. It's worth noting that his recent success might be a little overstated, though: Opposing batters are hitting .226 on balls in play against him since August 1.

Estrada's first and second win of the season came against the Cubs in April. He pitched a combined 13 innings over those two games and allowed five runs on 12 hits, walking three and striking out ten. He did, however, allow three home runs in those games. Two current Cubs have faced him ten times or more:

Starlin Castro 15 15 6 2 1 0 2 0 3 .400 .400 .667 1.067
Anthony Rizzo 12 12 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .083 .083 .083 .167
Total 72 67 13 4 2 2 6 4 15 .194 .250 .403 .653
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/17/2013.

He'll face 28-year-old Cubs righty Jeff Samardzija (4.44 ERA, 3.80 FIP), who is probably having a better season than his traditional stats (4.44 ERA, 8-12 record) would indicate. He's been having a rough go of it lately, though, allowing six runs on eight hits over 5.2 innings against the Reds on Wednesday. He's given up 17 runs in his last 18.1 innings.

You could probably argue that Samardzija may be hitting the wall in his longest major league season to date: He's already thrown a career-high 194.2 innings this season, 20 more than last season and over 100 more than two years ago. It's possible that the strain of throwing 110 or more pitches in 13 of his 30 starts and 100 or more in 25 of 30 is also starting to wear on him. His velocity isn't down, though, so it may all be luck and small sample size.

Samardzija has been good in two starts against the Brewers in 2013, allowing five runs (four earned) on just nine hits over 14 innings. Two current Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Jonathan Lucroy 15 12 1 0 1 0 1 2 6 .083 .267 .250 .517
Norichika Aoki 14 13 5 1 1 0 0 1 1 .385 .429 .615 1.044
Total 72 67 14 2 2 1 4 4 21 .209 .264 .343 .607
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/17/2013.

Tonight's lineup is as follows:

Norichika Aoki RF
Jean Segura SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Carlos Gomez CF
Scooter Gennett 2B
Caleb Gindl LF
Sean Halton 1B
Marco Estrada P

And in the bullpen:

  • Rob Wooten pitched one inning (15 pitches) last night, and also pitched on Sunday.
  • Donovan Hand pitched .1 innings (four pitches) last night, and also pitched on Sunday.
  • Brandon Kintzler pitched one inning (12 pitches) last night.
  • Michael Gonzalez pitched .2 innings (13 pitches) last night.
  • Jim Henderson pitched one inning (19 pitches) on Sunday.
  • Michael Blazek, Alfredo Figaro, Jimmy Nelson and Burke Badenhop last pitched on Saturday.
  • Tom Gorzelanny is hoping to pitch again before the end of the season but is still bothered by shoulder soreness.

The forecast for tonight calls for a temperature in the low 60's, so neither an open nor closed roof would be a major surprise for me. If the roof and/or panels are open, expect a breeze blowing in from right. However, Adam McCalvy reported around 4 that the roof was closing.