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Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Choice matchup: slider vs. cutter

By ESPN Stats & Information


AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
Roy Halladay celebrates after throwing a perfect game against the Marlins on May 29, 2010.
The Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies continue their three-game series tonight (ESPN2, 7 ET). This will be the first game for the Marlins without manager Ozzie Guillén, who was suspended five games by the team for his comments regarding his respect for Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro. This is the first time Guillén has been suspended in his managerial career. Joey Cora will make his managerial debut in the interim.

Starting Pitchers
Josh Johnson and Roy Halladay have started against each other four times, with Johnson’s teams winning three of the four games. Since Halladay joined the Phillies in 2010, they have faced off three times, with both pitchers going at least seven innings. In those games, a grand total of six runs were scored – and one perfect game was thrown (by Halladay).

The key for Johnson tonight will be how he commands his slider. Last season, opponents were 5-for-68 (.074) on at-bats ending in his slider. The league average was .217. Right-handed hitters were just 2-for-40 (.050) against the slider, with Albert Pujols and Justin Turner recording the only hits.

However, in his first outing this season, Johnson had trouble commanding the slider and allowed two hits off the pitch, both to David Frese.

In his first start this season, Halladay recorded the win over the Pittsburgh Pirates after throwing eight innings, allowing two hits, no earned runs and striking out five. The key to his success against the Pirates was his cutter, which has become his main weapon of choice. In that outing, Halladay threw only seven regular fastballs among the 92 pitches he threw.

Key Stat
The Phillies offense has been anemic to start the season. Their four extra-base hits are the fewest in the majors and no team but the Minnesota Twins have scored fewer than the Phillies’ 2.0 runs per game. Not since 1997 have the Phillies scored as few as eight runs in their first four games of the season. Philadelphia finished 68-94 that season and in last place in the NL East.

Player to Watch
Giancarlo Stanton has yet to hit a home run this season after hitting a career-high 34 last year. Overall, Stanton improved across the board in 2011, compared to his rookie year. He cut his strikeouts down, increased his walk rate from the league average to better than 83 percent of the league, all while increasing his power output. His 5.7 Wins Above Replacement, according the Baseball-Reference, ranked second among MLB rightfielders (Jose Bautista, 8.5).

Interesting Fact
Stanton’s full name is a sonorous mouthful: Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton. He is not Italian, and Giancarlo is not a family name – his parents just liked it. In school, Stanton, a California native, went by Giancarlo until the fifth grade.

Will Cohen contributed to this post