It might seem like an inopportune time for Charlie Manuel to give Ryan Howard and Domonic Brown the day off. Between the two of them, they’ve swatted six home runs in the month of May already. With that in mind – not to mention the Phillies are going for a sweep of the reigning World Series Champions this afternoon – you might think their names would be on the lineup card.
With Barry Zito taking the hill for the Giants though, Manuel opted to stash Howard and Brown in the cupboard instead. The 34 year old and his notorious curveball are tough on lefties, to which The Big Piece can attest. Howard has stood in the box 11 times against Zito, going 1 for 10 with five strikeouts. Brown has never faced Zito, and clearly today is not the day for that experiment.
It’s not an unusual strategy. Zito has pitched to nearly four times as many right-handed batters than left over his 14-year career. From the Phillies’ vantage point, Brown hasn’t exactly raked against left-handed pitching this season (his OBP is 50 points lower), and surprise, Howard is really struggling versus southpaws with a .194 average.
So if the Phils are going to get it done today, it will be with something of an unusual configuration. The only lefties in the order are Chase Utley batting cleanup – 7 for 17 with four extra base hits and 3 runs batted in lifetime against Zito – and Ben Revere, who no doubt is mostly in there for his defense.
Meanwhile, this will be yet another big test for young Jonathan Pettibone making his fourth big-league start. San Francisco’s lineup is tough, and the pressure is really on the rookie with the news Roy Halladay will be out of action for several months at least. Pettibone has done well thus far, producing a 2-0 record with a 3.24 ERA, but we’re all sort of waiting for that first trip where the kid gets roughed up.
Not today, we hope. The Phillies have been enjoying a nice series in the bay area, and taking three in a row off of the Giants would be a huge step for the club as they try to climb back to the elusive .500 mark.
— MLBLineups (@mlblineups) May 8, 2013