Shaun Marcum looks to cut past the Cubs

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

Shaun Marcum held opponents to a .196 BA and .264 Slug pct against his cutter last season.

The Milwaukee Brewers head to the Windy City to open a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs tonight (ESPN, 7 ET). The Brewers went 10-6 against the Cubs last season, their first winning season against Chicago since 2005. The Cubs were 45-34 against Milwaukee from 2006-10.

Starting Pitchers

Shaun Marcum takes the mound for the Brewers in his first start of the season. Marcum is coming off a career year in 2011 – his first in the National League after starting his career with the Toronto Blue Jays - as he set career highs with 33 starts and 200⅔ IP, and tied his career high with 13 wins.

Shaun Marcum Cutter
Last Two Seasons

The cutter will be Marcum’s weapon, a pitch he improved and increased his use of last season. In 2011, he threw his cutter 17.7 percent of the time and has a miss percentage of 26.0, compared to throwing it 15.9 percent of the time with a 22.2 miss percentage in 2010. In addition, Marcum allowed only two HR off his cutter last season, compared to seven home runs in 2010.

Chris Volstad is 1-1 with a sparkling 1.71 ERA in four career starts against the Brewers. He’ll be excited to see Milwaukee without Prince Fielder in the lineup. Volstad’s opponents’ batting average against lefties was fifth-worst in the majors last season.

Volstad’s performance against lefties has gotten worse each of his four seasons in the majors. In 2008, he allowed lefties to hit .243 against him, but saw left-handed hitters become more comfortable in each of the subsequent years – hitting .255 in 2009; .292 in 2010; and a career-high .305 against him last season. Only four other pitchers (min. 300 AB) had a higher opponent batting average against left-handed batters last season.

Stat of the Game

Milwaukee entered the season without Prince Fielder for the first time since 2005 (signed a free-agent contract with the Detroit Tigers). It’s only three games, but they are feeling his loss as their first basemen (Mat Gamel and Travis Ishikawa) are a combined 2-for-12 with five strikeouts and no extra-base hits. Fielder is hitting .417 with two HR and two strikeouts in three games with the Tigers.

Key Matchup

Chicago second baseman Darwin Barney is 3-for-7 with three doubles against Marcum, but the rest of the Cubs are 5-for-53 (.094) with two extra-base hits combined. David DeJesus is 0-for-16 with four strikeouts against him.

John Fisher contributed to this post