Apr 7, 2012, 2:18 PM EDT
This is what makes facing the Phillies so daunting. There was never really any doubt that Roy Halladay would take care of business on Opening Day, and he surely did not disappoint. The Pirates were held to two hits, zero runs thanks to the combination of Doc, and brand new closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth. Against most teams, you brush that off, and go after the next guy.
Except the next guy for Philadelphia is Cliff Lee.
The 2008 AL Cy Young winner had another phenomenal season in 2011, one during which he was almost literally untouchable for months at a time, specifically June and August. His 17 wins were good for fourth in the NL, his 2.40 ERA third. He was third with a 1.027 WHIP, sixth with 7.6 hits per nine, second with 238 strikeouts, first with six complete game shutouts — you get the picture. Batters are better off walking the plank than up to the plate.
Lee’s last start against the Pirates was on July 30 at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed four runs on eight hits in 7.2 innings of work, but struck out 11 and picked up the win in a 7-4 victory. In his lone start at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, Lee earned a no decision with the Indians in 2010, giving up two over seven frames.
While the Phillies didn’t exactly demonstrate a potent offense on Opening Day, you’ll usually take Cliff Lee over whoever marches out under the opposite team’s flag — in this case, Jeff Karstens.
Karstens is coming off of a career year despite struggling mightily from fatigue down the stretch. A product of the New York Yankees farm system, the righthander was 8-8 in 26 starts last season, and 9-9 in 30 appearances with a 3.38 ERA. He doesn’t strike many batters out (5.3 SO/9), but the 29 year old was third in the NL while giving 1.83 free passes per nine. Only Halladay and Lee were better, with Cole Hamels right behind them.
Karstens had a good spring, and should be able to pick up where he left off in the first half last year.
Batter vs. Pitcher
A couple players who have given Karstens his share of trouble though are Jimmy Rollins and Hunter Pence. Rollins is 6-for-13 lifetime against Karstens, including 4-for-7 with two RBIs and one run in 2011. Pence has solid career numbers — 8-for-21 with a home run — but cooled off considerably versus Karstens last season, going 3-for-11 with zero extra base hits. Still, look for the heart of the armada to fire some shots tonight.
Both have had success running against Karstens as well. Rollins and Pence each have two stolen bases in five combined attempts. The Phils did not run too much on lefty Erik Bedard on Thursday, with Shane Victorino picking up the club’s lone stolen base, but looting from the Bucs on the base paths could be a bigger part of the game plan in game two.
Inside the Box Score
Freddy Galvis went 0-for-4 in his Major League debut on Thursday, which was half expected to be honest. However, they are going to need more from him going forward, even batting out of the eight hole.
All four Galvis outs ended an inning — two on routine ground ball double plays — leaving Roy Halladay to lead off three times. Doc made the best of a bad situation, going 1-for-3 himself, but no matter how well Phillies pitchers hit, the offense must get better at turning the lineup over, now more than ever.
This is by mo means intended to kill the 22 year old. Galvis appeared in just 33 games at Triple A last season, and suddenly finds himself Opening Day second baseman for the big club. Credit the Pirates Erik Bedard for a strong outing as well, the veteran pitcher putting the rookie in his place (0-3, 2 DP).
That said, it’s a situation to monitor. Galvis had a decent spring, batting .280 with nine runs and 14 RBIs, so there’s no reason to think he can’t handle it. This is the real deal though, and the Phillies have to do the little things to win this year.
Tonight’s lineup @ PIT: Victorino CF, Polanco 3B, Rollins SS, Pence RF, Nix 1B, Mayberry LF, Ruiz C, Galvis 2B, Lee P.
— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) April 7, 2012
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