Phillies (12-14) at Indians (10-13)
7:05.m. – CSN
Season-long interleague play creates scheduling quirks and the Phillies will experience some as May begins -- they conclude a five-game road trip with a brief two-gamer in Cleveland, before returning home for four games with Miami and then heading out West for seven games against the Giants and Diamondbacks.
This needs to be a successful week for the Phils. They’ve won three in a row and play six games this week against struggling teams. The four-game home series later this week against a Giancarlo Stanton-less Marlins team looks sweepable, but the Phillies can’t and won’t look past these two games at Progressive Field.
The Indians have been very streaky (three losing streaks of at least three games) and haven’t gotten much out of their starting pitching (5.23 ERA).
Halladay on the hill
Roy Halladay (2-2, 5.08) will take the mound in Cleveland in search of his fourth straight brilliant outing. He’ll be reunited with catcher and close companion Carlos Ruiz, who returned from his 25-game suspension on Sunday.
Few expected Halladay to scuffle as mightily as he did in his first two starts (7.1 IP, 12 ER), but even fewer expected him to morph into an unhittable pitcher over his next three.
Halladay in his last three starts has a .114 opponents’ batting average and a 1.71 ERA.
He’s not throwing first-pitch strikes the way he used to and he probably never will again, because his get-me-over stuff doesn’t have the same bite and it isn’t worth risking missing in the middle of the plate. But Doc is adapting to what has worked this season and his arsenal has changed for the better.
Halladay has gotten away from his cutter – his former bread and butter – not entirely, but mostly in two-strike counts. The curveball has become his new out-pitch against batters from both sides. They haven’t been able to touch it – they’re 1 for 25 with 17 strikeouts, according to Brooks Baseball.
Against the Pirates his last time out, Halladay threw 40 sinkers, 26 curves, 15 cutters and 14 changeups. Five of the eight swings-and-misses he got were on curves.
Halladay hasn’t faced the Indians since 2009, so his numbers against them are pretty much meaningless. The only Indian left from that team is shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.
Current Indians are hitting .291 off Doc. A lot of that damage has come from Jason Giambi, who will likely DH on Tuesday. The Giambino is 22 for 72 (.291) with four homers, nine RBIs and seven walks against Halladay.
It’s been feast or famine for Nick Swisher, who is 6 for 20 with four doubles and a homer against Halladay, but has also struck out nine times.
The Phillies have never seen 6-foot-6 right-hander Zach McAllister before. He enters the game 1-3 with a 3.52 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 23 innings.
McAllister can be wild at times – he walked five batters in his last start and high pitch counts have kept him from going deeper than 6 1/3 innings this season.
McAllister, a former third-round pick of the Yankees, was traded to Cleveland in 2010 in a deadline deal for Austin Kearns, and has pitched pretty well for the Tribe since. He was 12-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 2011 for the Indians’ Triple A affiliate, and after another good start in 2012 earned 22 starts with Cleveland last season. He went 6-8 with a 4.24 ERA and 7.9 strikeouts per nine.
McAllister throws his 92-94 fastball 73 percent of the time, so the Phillies should know what to expect. He has a slider in the high-70s that he throws 16 percent, and very rarely he’ll use a changeup against lefties.
Historically he’s thrown the fastball 85 percent of the time when ahead in the count to a lefty, signifying that he trusts his heat over keeping a lefty off balance. It could be because he doesn’t fully trust a changeup that opponents blasted last season (.394 batting average, six doubles).
Only Ben Revere and Michael Young have seen McAllister, and they’ve both had success. Revere is 2 for 3 with a walk and Young is 3 for 6.
A key to Halladay’s recent success has been getting batters out early in the count, but don’t expect that against the Indians. Cleveland has a number of patient hitters who work counts, including Swisher, Giambi, catcher Carlos Santana and infielders Mark Reynolds and Jason Kipnis.
Cleveland’s lineup is much improved, so don’t be surprised if Halladay’s remarkable run comes to an end Tuesday night. The Phillies, though, should be able to provide him enough run support to take the pressure off of being as sharp as possible.
Despite playing poorly for several weeks in April, the Phillies sit just one game back of the Nationals for second place on the final day of the month. The Phils are 4 1/2 behind the Braves, who snapped a four-game losing streak on Monday night.