Following a rough start to the year, Roy Halladay appears to have recaptured his Cy Young form.
That shouldn't come as much of a surprise to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Halladay takes the mound for the Philadelphia Phillies looking to continue his dominance of the Pirates as these clubs play the third of four Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
After compiling an uncharacteristic 14.73 ERA in losing his first two starts, Halladay (2-2, 6.04 ERA) has posted a 1.80 ERA and limited opponents to a .143 average in recording back-to-back wins. The two-time Cy Young award winner gave up two hits - both solo homers - and went the distance in Friday's rain-shortened 8-2, seven-inning victory over St. Louis.
"Today was as close as I've felt to where I want to be. When I stay within myself and execute the mechanics the way they should be done, I feel good where I'm at," he said.
"I always felt I was going in the right direction. Once I got a chance to pitch deeper in games, do more bullpens, I felt I was able to take some of that over into the game."
Halladay has to like his chances of keeping things going versus Pittsburgh (11-9). The right-hander, who's won three consecutive starts in the series, has gone 4-1 over six career matchups against the Pirates while compiling a 0.98 ERA - his lowest mark against any opponent.
He's made things difficult on several of their hitters, including Andrew McCutchen (1 for 10), Neil Walker (1 for 9), Clint Barmes (0 for 8) and Pedro Alvarez (0 for 5).
Halladay, though, could find himself in a pitchers' duel with Wandy Rodriguez (2-0, 0.56). Scratched from his previous start due to a strained hamstring, Rodriguez faced the minimum while throwing seven innings of one-hit ball Friday in a 6-0 win over Atlanta.
"When you see a guy twirling like he did today, there's not any team that's going to put up much against him," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It wasn't just the strikes but the location of the strikes. It was like he was throwing darts.
"I don't know if we can afford to throw him every 11th day, but that was pretty special."
The left-hander is 2-2 with a 4.70 ERA against the Phillies (9-12).
After dropping Monday's series opener 3-2, Pittsburgh bounced back with a 2-0 win the following night. Jeff Locke threw six strong innings and Gaby Sanchez hit his second homer.
The Pirates opened 1-5 but have since won 10 of 14, including four of their last five while allowing six total runs.
Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin extended his hitting streak to eight games with a single Tuesday. He's batting .444 with two homers and six runs scored over that stretch.
McCutchen, though, hasn't been very locked in of late. He's hitless in eight at_bats in the series and is batting .120 in his last seven road games. McCutchen is a career .193 hitter in Philadelphia.
The Phillies, who went 26 for 62 (.419) with runners in scoring position over their first eight home games, have since gone 5 for 34 (.147), including Tuesday's 0-for-5 effort.
"I think they're trying, maybe a little bit too hard," manager Charlie Manuel said. "But you have to get it done. ... We have to improve our game."
Cleanup hitter Ryan Howard left two runners on base Tuesday, and has one RBI in his last 11 games. He is 4 for 12 with a homer lifetime against Rodriguez.
The Associated Press News Service
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