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Friday, July 5, 2013
W2W4: Zack Wheeler's 4th start

By Mark Simon

A look at some of the statistical storylines for Zack Wheeler's start in Milwaukee tonight.

Start No. 4
Wheeler enters with a 5.06 ERA coming off shaky starts against the White Sox and Nationals.

But it’s not uncommon for a highly touted pitcher to struggle this early in his career. Not everyone comes out of the gate like Matt Harvey or Marlins star Jose Fernandez.

Kevin Gausman, one of the Orioles' top pitching prospects and a first-round pick last season, had a 7.20 ERA in 15 innings through three starts earlier this season. Michael Wacha, also a first-round pick last season (by the Cardinals), had a 4.58 ERA through his first three starts.

And it’s worth noting that Harvey had some issues in his second and third starts, too. His ERA through three was 3.86. Harvey allowed two runs (and five walks) in six innings in his fourth start, a 4-0 loss to the Braves last Aug. 10.

Brewers figure to come out swinging
The Brewers enter the day leading the majors in swing frequency (they swing at nearly 49 percent of pitches thrown) and chase rate (they swing at 31 percent of pitches deemed out of the strike zone).

They are not as heavy of a strikeout team as you might expect. Their rate of missing on their swings is actually below major league average.

The Brewers have made young pitchers work this season. Wheeler will be the fifth to start against them this season within the first four starts of his major league career. The other four have pitched modestly well, allowing nine runs in 23 2/3 innings, but have averaged 15.6 pitches per inning in the process.

Matchups to Watch
Chief among the Brewers' free swingers is center fielder Carlos Gomez, who swings only slightly less often than free-swinging standard setter Pablo Sandoval.

Gomez is enjoying the best season of his career, hitting .311 with 13 home runs and nine triples. Wheeler needs to be careful not to hang a breaking ball against Gomez, who has five home runs and five doubles against curves and sliders thrown by righties this season.

Gomez is gettable with a breaking ball out of the strike zone or a good fastball. He hasn’t homered against one of the latter thrown 94 mph or harder by a righty this season.

Wheeler will also be challenged by the reach of shortstop Jean Segura, who is hitting .323 with 11 home runs this season. Segura ranks second in the majors to Sandoval in hits against pitches thrown out of the strike zone this season with 31.

Pitch to Watch: Fastball
Wheeler averaged 96 mph with his fastball in the first inning of Sunday’s start against the Nationals and struck out two in that frame. He averaged 94 mph in his next four frames, leading Terry Collins to encourage him to bring more heat.

Wheeler got six swings-and-misses with his fastball against the Nationals, one more than he had in his start against the White Sox. He had 14 in his debut against the Braves two-and-a-half weeks ago.

Welcome Back, Ike
Ike Davis should return to the Mets' lineup today after his nearly monthlong stint in Las Vegas.

Davis is 5-for-42 against Brewers pitching, with most of the damage coming via a three-hit game at Miller Park last Sept. 15.

If Davis is in the lineup, he’ll face a guy with a lively fastball, rookie Johnny Hellweg. Though Hellweg can crank up his fastball from 95 to 98 mph, it’s a hittable pitch. Opponents are 6-for-12 with three walks against it in his two appearances.

Davis is 10-for-27 with three homers and three doubles when a righty hits 95-plus on the radar gun over the past two seasons.