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Phillies Vs. Braves: Atlanta Turns To Derek Lowe In Rubber Game With Philly

The Braves and Phillies face off in the rubber game of the home-opening series for Atlanta. Game time is 1:35 on Fox Sports South.

Phillies Lineup:
1. Shane Victorino, CF
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Jimmy Rollins, SS
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Ben Francisco, RF
6. Raul Ibanez, LF
7. Carlos Ruiz, C
8. Michael Martinez, 2B
9. Cole Hamels, SP

Braves Lineup:
1. Martin Prado, LF
2. Nate McLouth, CF
3. Chipper Jones, 3B
4. Brian McCann, C
5. Dan Uggla, 2B
6. Jason Heyward, RF
7. Alex Gonzalez, SS
8. Freddie Freeman, 1B
9. Derek Lowe, SP

Cole Hamels (2010: 208.2 IP, 3.06 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 3.28 xFIP, 2.63 BB/9, 9.1 K/9, 45.4 GB%, 11.9 SwStr%)
(54.4 FB%, 25 CT%, 19.1 CH%, 1.5 CB%; 36.8 Swing%, 80 Contact%)
vs.
Derek Lowe (11.2 IP, 0.77 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 2.66 xFIP, 3.86 BB/9, 10.03 K/9, 58.8 GB%, 8.2 SwStr%)
(46.2 FB%, 30.7 SL%, 17.5 CH%, 5.7 CT%; 40 Swing%, 76.2 Contact%)

Cole Hamels had the second worst start of his career in his season debut against the Mets, allowing six runs on seven hits in 2.2 innings. If anything, it kept Hamels fresh for his second start as he threw only 68 pitches. He is coming off a solid 2010 season in which he returned to 200+ innings with a 9.1 K/9, his highest strikeout rate since his rookie season. Hamels has almost completely ditched the curveball and continues to back off the changeup, but he is throwing the same number of fastballs and a considerable amount of cutters. His confidence in the cutter seems to be growing with every start.

Derek Lowe continues to post career-best strikeout numbers through two starts due to a major increase in slider counts. His 30.7% slider count is up from 16.1% last season, though the plan to throw more sliders began last September. Lowe has been a completely different pitcher so far this season and looks to keep it going against the Phillies.

Opposing Numbers:
Despite being a left-hander, Brian McCann has done damage against Cole Hamels, going 12-37 with six doubles, one homer and 11 RBI. Martin Prado and Chipper Jones also have averages over .300 in their careers against Hamels, including two homers for Chipper. The rest of the lineup has not fared well against him, especially Dan Uggla at 6-37.

Derek Lowe has dominated the Phillies hitters in the past. Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez have averages below .100 against him, while Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins are below .250. Howard and Ibanez are the only ones with production numbers, recording six RBI each. The only Phillies with any success against Lowe are Carlos Ruiz at 5-16 and Placido Polanco at 2-3 with a double.

What to Look For:
Lowe has history on his side due to the solid numbers against Philly hitters in his career. He also has momentum on his side after back-to-back great outings to start the season. The Braves need another one from Lowe today.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.