Halladay and Chooch, Together Again: Will It Help Roy's Command?

Halladay and Chooch, Together Again: Will It Help Roy's Command?

If there's a better bromance in Philadelphia than Carlos Ruiz and Roy Halladay, I'd like to hear who it involves.

The battery mates will be reunited this evening in Cleveland when Roy Halladay (2-2, 5.08) and the Phillies take on right-hander Zach McAllister (1-3, 3.50) and the Indians (more on McAllister and the Phils futility against pitchers they haven't seen here).

The big news of the day is Delmon Young flying to Cleveland and Charlie Manuel wasting no time getting him in the lineup. Young will DH tonight and bat fifth, but Charlie told reporters this afternoon he'd like to see him in right field before the team heads home to face the Marlins on Thursday. That could be disastrous/hilarious.

7:05 start from the Forest City. For more on Halladay, check out the guest spot from Matt Hammond below.

*

Next Step in Halladay's Progression: Command by Matt Hammond

Between 2010 and 2011, only one starter in baseball had a better strikeout-to-walk ratio, the consummate control metric, than Roy Halladay. (That guy, of course, was Cliff Lee.)

No matter how you slice it, be it BB% (3.4) or BB/9 (1.21), Halladay walked the fewest batters in baseball (again, with Lee) and did it with a handle matched by, well, maybe only Lee. But still.

Even amid Halladay’s remarkable turnaround – he’s gone 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his last three – that control has yet to catch up. With his Phillies in Cleveland tonight for the first of a two-game set to wrap the road trip, rediscovering his command is the next logical step for him.

Save for the home runs and near driver’s license-eligible ERA, what was scariest about Halladay’s first two starts was his 14.6% walk rate. Still, even in his last three, he gave freebies to 8.6%. Never in his career since 2004 had he walked more than 5.6% -- and even that was from last year.

One of his biggest issues so far has been falling behind. Halladay’s thrown first-pitch strikes on only 50.4% of at-bats, for the fifth-worst rate in baseball. And it’s actually gotten progressively worse as the rest of his game has so much improved: 55.2, 44.0, 40.9 in his last three. Granted, he’s done a good job of recovering or forcing bad balls in play (we’ll get there), and if this persists, that ability will be one of his biggest allies. Still, it’s just not a Halladay we’ve ever seen – even last year.

Part of the problem is there’s actually too much life in his cutter. Where it had just -0.1 of horizontal movement in 2010-11, it’s now got -3.9 – good (bad?) for the most in all of baseball. Clearly not helping keep runners off base, especially since they’re hitting .389 against the pitch this year.

If he can get a hold of that, watch out.

The hope tonight is that Cleveland doesn’t get a hold of Halladay. His HR/FB rate (20.8%) ranks fourth in baseball and is twice his career average. And it’s not just from his first two starts. Despite ranking 24th in home runs, the Cardinals took Halladay deep twice two weeks back. The Indians have the seventh most homers in baseball so far, and sixth best HR/FB (13.2%).

Also of concern: Halladay’s BABIP his last three starts is .194, from 54 balls put in play.

But hits and home runs will happen, even to Halladay.

Of chief concern now is whether the guys running/trotting the base paths walked to get there.

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

Best of NBA: Curry, Warriors demolish Cavaliers, 126-91, at home

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors certainly looked ready to trade some more blows with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come June.

The two-time reigning MVP hit five 3-pointers and had 20 points while matching his season best with 11 assists in Golden State's 126-91 rout of the defending champs Monday.

Klay Thompson scored 26 points with five 3s, and Curry made four steals. Draymond Green produced his third triple-double of the season with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists while matching his career best with five blocks -- and had another dustup with King James in the process.

James had 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting and eight rebounds, and he and Green became the talk once more as their relationship turned even more testy.

Kevin Durant added 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and three blocks for the Warriors in a much-hyped matchup merely weeks after Golden State lost 109-108 in Cleveland on Christmas (see full recap).

Thomas explodes for 17 in fourth quarter to lift Celtics over Hornets
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas scored 17 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, and the surging Boston Celtics beat the Charlotte Hornets 108-98 on Monday night for their ninth victory in 11games.

It was Thomas' 25th straight game with 20 or more points. He's been putting up big final quarters of late -- scoring 20 or more three times this season. No other NBA player had done it more than once entering Monday.

Al Horford had 22 points, while Kelly Olynyk and Jae Crowder added 15 apiece for Boston, which has won all three meetings with Charlotte this season.

Kemba Walker scored 24 points and Marvin Williams 21 for the Hornets, who lost their fifth straight -- all on the road.

Thomas scored 13 straight points, pushing Boston ahead 93-83 with his 3-pointer from the left wing with 7 minutes left.

Boston led 80-71 entering the final period (see full recap).

Wizards remain hot with win over Trail Blazers
WASHINGTON  -- Bradley Beal scored 25 points and John Wall had 24 as the Washington Wizards took a page from the Portland Trail Blazers' playbook by hitting 13 3-pointers in a comfortable 120-101 victory on Monday afternoon.

The Wizards, who rely less on the 3-pointer than almost any NBA team, were 13 of 23 from beyond the arc in their 12th consecutive home victory. The 3-pointer-heavy Trail Blazers shot 8 of 26 on 3-point attempts.

After Washington coach Scott Brooks called Portland guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as good as any backcourt in the league, Beal and John Wall outplayed them. Lillard led the Blazers with 22 points and McCollum had 12, but they combined to shoot 11 of 29 from the floor.

The Wizards have won four of their last five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

Best of NHL: Penguins halt Capitals 9-game streak with wild 8-7 OT win

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored 34 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Washington Capitals' nine-game winning streak with a wild 8-7 victory Monday night that included nine second-period goals.

Sheary had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Evgeni Malkin picked up his 11th career hat trick during a frenetic second period, and Sidney Crosby collected his NHL-leading 27th goal to go with two assists. Bryan Rust and Nick Bonino also scored for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray got the win despite allowing seven goals on 28 shots.

The Penguins trailed 3-0 before scoring six goals in less than 11 minutes in the second period, more goals than the Capitals had allowed in a game all season. Pittsburgh led 6-5 after 40 minutes.

Lars Eller scored twice for Washington, and T.J. Oshie, Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom, Justin Williams and Andre Burakovsky also found the net. Philipp Grubauer made eight saves after coming on in relief of Braden Holtby, who was pulled during Pittsburgh's second-period deluge (see full recap).

Eichel scores twice to give Sabres' 4-1 win over Stars
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Jack Eichel scored two goals and the Buffalo Sabres defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 on Monday.

Tyler Ennis scored 19 seconds into the first period. Ennis returned after missing 30 games with a groin injury that required surgery.

Jake McCabe also had a goal and Robin Lehner made 31 saves after missing the past three games with an illness.

The Sabres snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Stars for the first time in four matchups.

Radek Faksa scored for the Stars in the opener of a three-game road trip. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 shots. Dallas has lost two in a row and six of eight (see full recap).

Bishop anchors Lightning to 2-1 win over Kings
LOS ANGELES -- Brian Boyle scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning opened a six-game road trip with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Ben Bishop made an early mistake that led to Kyle Clifford's goal for the Kings, but bounced back to make 31 saves in his second start back from a three-week absence with a lower-body injury.

Tyler Johnson scored in the first period for the Lightning, who won for just the second time in seven games.

Peter Budaj stopped 27 shots for the Kings.

Both teams played without stars due to illness. Kings captain Anze Kopitar missed his first game since Nov. 20, and All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman missed his first game of the season for Tampa Bay (see full recap).