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Phillies Vs. Braves: Tim Hudson Looks To Contain Ryan Howard In Home Opener

The Braves host the Phillies in Atlanta's home opener Friday at 7:35 on Peachtree TV and 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. Wilson Valdez, 2B
9. Cliff Lee, 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. Tim Hudson, SP

Cliff Lee (2010: 212.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 2.58 FIP, 3.06 xFIP, 0.76 BB/9, 7.84 K/9, 41.9 GB%, 8.2 SwStr%)
(63.6 FB%, 19.8 CT%, 9.4 CH%, 5.6 CB%, 1.6 SL%; 51.5 Swing%, 84.1 Contact%)
Tim Hudson (2010: 228.2 IP, 2.83 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 3.77 xFIP, 2.91 BB/9, 5.47 K/9, 64.1 GB%, 6.8 SwStr%)
(56 GB%, 15.5 CT%, 13.1 SF%, 7.1 SL%, 4.8 CB%, 3.6 CH%; 43.2 Swing%, 91.4 Contact%)

Cliff Lee sailed through his first start of 2011 against the Astros, allowing three runs on four hits in seven innings, not walking any and striking out 11. It was a characteristic outing for Lee, who recorded an insane walk rate last season and holds a career mark of 2.22 BB/9. He had the best season of his career in 2010, posting career-best numbers in ERA, FIP, xFIP and K/BB. The Braves know what to expect with Lee, but he did show something different in his season debut against Houston. He threw only 44% fastballs compared to 31% cutters, which is a significant difference from years past. Whether that continues remains to be seen, but it's something to keep an eye on for right-handers.

Tim Hudson continued his dominance of the Nationals in his season debut with seven innings of one-run ball, allowing three hits, one walk and striking out five. Hudson is coming off one of his best seasons in Atlanta and is seeking a repeat year,and a big step toward that is good starts against the Phillies. Like Lee, Hudson threw more cutters in his first start, as well as more splitters. He didn't post the insane groundball rate of last season, but it was one start.

Opposing Numbers:
Alex Gonzalez is 4-12 with a homer and three RBI against Cliff Lee. Chipper Jones is 2-8 with two doubles. Other than that, the Braves don't have much success against the left-hander. A lot of that is due to the Braves' lack of success against lefties the past few years.

Ryan Howard has had Tim Hudson's number in the past, hitting six homers with a .341 average in 50 plate appearances. Howard is coming in hot, recording at least two hits in all but one game so far this season. Raul Ibanez has had success against Hudson, but the rest of the Phillies sluggers have not. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz have been limited against Hudson.

What to Look For:
Preventing Ryan Howard from doing damage. The big left-hander has mowed through opposing pitching so far this season, and Hudson has not fared well against him in the past. Howard has a long history of success against the Braves.

On the other end, the Braves have to do what they can to reach base against Cliff Lee. That means racking up hits and taking shots the other way against the left-hander, because it won't happen with walks.

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