Thoughts After Tonight’s Phillies-Braves Game

After many fingernails chewed in nervous anticipation due to reduced velocity, Phillies RHP Roy Halladay took the mound tonight in his first start of the season with many eyes trained on him.  Laboring through the first inning with 40 pitches, Halladay would go on to throw 3.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER  with 3 walks and 2 home runs given up.  Yet, Halladay still stuck out nine Atlanta batters on mostly off-speed stuff, as he toyed with his now diminished cutter all night.  Let’s recap some thoughts:

  • This is a bit obvious, but did anyone really doubt Justin Upton would struggle in this new lineup? Two home runs on the season already, with two walks.  If he keeps production like this up, it’s clear why Fredi Gonzalez has him penciled in the no.3 spot.
  • Conversely, how bad does his brother, B.J., look?  0-9 as a Brave and was lifted for Jordan Schafer later in the game.  It’s apparent he’s susceptible to breaking stuff away and he’ll need to correct the free-swinging approach.
  • While the Braves will hit a lot of homers, they’ll also strike out a lot, too.  9 Ks against Halladay, 16 by Phillies pitchers and 24 in their first two games could be cause for concern if the Braves, who had six walks tonight (which would all score), didn’t walk.  Totally different ballgame, totally different perspective.
  • Roy Halladay is a changeup-curveball pitcher now.  While that may have worked tonight against the mostly free-swinging Braves, it won’t for every team.  Halladay’s next start figures to be against the New York Mets on Tuesday.  While only two games in, the Mets lead the National League on OBP at .419.  With three walks in 3.1 IP, Halladay is going to have to figure out how to deal with the reality– reduced velocity, and fast.
  • In his last five starts against Atlanta, Halladay has an 11.57 ERA and is 0-3 against them. Alarming, considering they’re divisional rivals.
  • Johnathan Papelbon was terrible last year in non-save situations, and it continued tonight as Jason Heyward finally joined the home run party; a two-run shot in the ninth, his first of the season.
  • Nobody wants Delmon Young out in right, but John Mayberry Jr.’s adventure to rob Jason Heyward’s 9th-inning homer and Domonic Brown’s attempt on Gattis’ homer in the bottom of the fourth weren’t anything spectacular, either.  Both managed to line up at the warning track, but neither really put much effort into catching it.  It’s like they’ve caught the Bobby Abreu syndrome of being afraid of the wall.
  • Speaking of which, how awesome is it that Evan Gattis’ first career hit was a home run off Roy Halladay? Y’know who else had their first career hit against Halladay? Freddie Freeman.  Y’know who else had their first career hit as a home run? Jason Heyward, off Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs.
  • If Gattis can continue to remain somewhat steady behind the plate, I wonder if Gerald Laird will have any presence on this team once catcher Brian McCann comes back, expected in late-April or early May following shoulder surgery.
  • Finally, I noticed a lot of flailing from Phillies batters on breaking pitches.  At one point, Braves LHP Paul Maholm struck out Chase Utley on a 58 mph curve.  Yes, 58 mph.  As a team in 2012, the Phillies posted a .317 OBP last year.  Working counts are necessary in today’s game

Tomorrow proves to be the final game of this opening series for the two teams.  It will be Phillies LHP Cliff Lee (6-9; 3.16 ERA in ’12) against Braves RHP Kris Medlen (0.97 ERA as a starter in 83.2 IP last year).  This game has all the makings of a pitcher’s duel and despite the 6 wins, Cliff Lee still had a nice season last year striking out 207 in 211 innings.  The Phillies will then have their home opener at Citizen’s Bank Park while Atlanta welcomes the Chicago Cubs and Starlin Castro for a three game series.

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