Phillies (9-12) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (11-9)

First pitch at 7:05 p.m.

With a win, the Phillies will have taken 3 of 4. With a loss, only 3 of 10.


The Pirates, meanwhile, have won 10 of 14 after opening the year 1-5.

Less so.

Halla Who?

One hiccup aside, Roy Halladay opened 2012 with a 1.98 ERA in his first eight starts. All were quality. None fewer than seven innings. Three lasted as many as eight.

He served four or more runs in three of his next four, including four in two innings against the Cardinals on May 27. In all, 17 runs in 19 frames, for an 8.05 ERA.

In the four starts after his second off the DL in July, Halladay punched straight quality starts, going six innings as many times as he did eight (1). Good for a 2.25 ERA.

Every other start for the rest of the way, Halladay surrendered five or more runs. Four in four innings in his last start of August. Seven in 1 2/3 in his second-to-last start of 2012.

Suffice it to say, Halladay’s looked this good before. Even last year.

With the Phillies having won just 4 of 13 Halladay, Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee 2013 starts, Halladay offering his best – and that best being what it’s been – is pivotal tonight.

He’s been solid, for two starts. He dealt seven innings of two-run ball his last time out, in a rain-shortened win over the Cardinals on Friday. The time prior, he held the Marlins to just one run and lasted eight frames. Over the span, that’s a 1.80 ERA.

It was also against St. Louis and Miami. The Cards are somehow fifth in baseball in runs, but are 19th or worse in every major offensive rate stat, with a .303 on-base percentage that ranks fifth-worst in the game. And the Marlins are, well, the Marlins.

The Pirates aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut, and like the Cardinals, rank 22nd or worse in every stop on their slash line. Only, they’ve scored the eighth-fewest runs.

Keep an eye on Doc’s pitch selection tonight. After enjoying success with an almost perfectly even split between five pitches and deemphasizing his fastball and cutter in favor of his curveball and changeup, Halladay threw only three changes vs. the Cards.

Batters were hitting just .067 and .167 against his curve and change before the St. Louis start, and .583 and .429 against his cutter and two-seamer.

Yet he also struck out more Cardinals than (6) Marlins (2).

Could’ve been the conditions. Could’ve been reverting to old habits.

Whatever works. So long as it does, well, work.

Halladay’s been bank against the Pirates all-time: 4-1 in six starts with a 0.98 ERA, his lowest for any opponent. He tossed eight scoreless his last time against them, last April.

Andrew McCutchen is 1 for 10 with four strikeouts and Neil Walker is 1 for 9 vs. Halladay. (Though Walker’s hit did leave the park.) Gaby Sanchez (7 for 27 with two home runs and a double) and Garrett Jones (4 for 13) have fared better against him.

The Other Guy

Wandy Rodriguez (2-0, 0.56 ERA) could be playing on borrowed time.

First, his batting average on balls in play is an absurdly low .119. (Since pitchers can’t control what happens after contact, BABIP is often a measure of luck. A pitcher’s career BABIP acts as his baseline, though it’s usually around .300. Rodriguez’s is .296. See?)

That’s likely to climb, and when it does, so too will his ERA.

Also peculiar is his 11.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It’s never been higher than 3.06 in Rodriguez’s, and that was in 2009. The reason? His 5.4 swinging strike percentage.

Basically, it’s highly unlikely that a guy can keep up how he has by painting the corners and/or relying on called strikes. Of note, this is what we said about Vance Worley, who’s again got the lowest SwSt% in baseball yet has seen his K/9 decline steadily since.

Rodriguez, an age-34 eight-year vet, will deploy an arsenal pretty similar to that of last night’s starter Jeff Locke: three pitches, crazy-heavy fastball, with a curve and change.

Locke, you remember, four-hit the Phillies over seven shutout innings.

Hamstring tightness forced him out of his second start on April 8 in Arizona, where he lasted just 2 1/3 and surrendered a run. But he was lights out in his other two, his latest being a one-hitter against the Braves in seven scoreless frames last Friday.

Rodriguez hasn’t seen the Phillies since 2011, when he served seven runs in four innings in an April loss. He’s 2-2 with a 6.75 ERA as a starter against them lifetime.

Jimmy Rollins (5 for 16, HR), Michael Young (6 for 18, 3 2B, 3 BB) and Ryan Howard (4 for 12, HR) have all feasted on Rodriguez. Chase Utley, who Manuel sat yesterday but said he expects to play today, is only 2 for 10.

Though the Phillies were supposed to maul Locke yesterday, too.

Hot and Not

Russell Martin’s hit streak is at eight games after last night. He's hitting .444 with two bombs and six runs scored over the span..

McCutchen, though, has struggled. He's hitless in eight at-bats this series and has hit only .120 in his last seven on the road. @TheCUTCH22 is a career .193 hitter in Philly.

The Phillies opened the year on a 26 for 62 (.419) with RISP at home. They’ve since hit just 5 for 34 (.147) with men in scoring position after going 0 for 5 yesterday.