Pitching Primer: Full Slate of Aces Features Roy Halladay vs. Josh Johnson

By Tom Froemming

It seemed like baseball had six or seven different Opening Days this season. Today finally feels like an old school opener. There’s a full slate of games, and most teams have their aces going.

The list of pitching probables today reads like the top of a fantasy baseball cheat sheet. Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, Jered Weaver, Stephen Strasburg, Jon Lester, James Shields, Yovanni Gallardo, Johnny Cueto and Ricky Romero are a few of the big names taking the mound today, but I’ve got my eye on the matchup between Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies and Josh Johnson of the Miami Marlins.

Anytime Halladay pitches it’s a big deal, but with the Phillies looking vulnerable this year, every one of his, Cliff Lee’s and Cole Hamels’ starts are going to be magnified. The Philadelphia lineup looks tame without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and has produced just eight runs in four games this year.

Halladay did what he had to in his first start of the year, holding the Pittsburgh Pirates scoreless on two hits over eight innings pitched to lift the Phillies to a 1-0 win, their only victory of the season.

Johnson’s first start back after missing most of 2011 wasn’t exactly a disaster, but he did give up a career-high 10 hits. On the plus side, he did limit the St. Louis Cardinals to three runs over six innings in a 4-1 loss. I’ve been particularly interested in Johnson because I believe if he gets back to being amongst the best starters in the National League, the Marlins have a great shot at landing a wild card. If not, I can’t see them being serious contenders.

Halladay has been as good as just about anybody at Citizens Bank Park … anybody other than Johnson. Halladay is 20-8 with a 2.31 ERA and 1.02 WHIP pitching at The Bank, but Johnson (in a much smaller sample size) has a 4-0 mark pitching in Philly to go with a 1.87 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.

If the matchup in Philadelphia doesn’t float your boat, there are plenty of other great options on today’s baseball menu, including seven matinee games. I’m interested to see if Justin Masterson can follow up his impressive 10-strikeout performance with another strong start this afternoon.

White Sox (Danks) at Indians (Masterson), 12:05 p.m. ET
Cardinals (Garcia) at Reds (Cueto), 12:35
Red Sox (Lester) at Blue Jays (Romero), 12:37
Rays (Shields) at Tigers (Verlander), 1:05
Nationals (Strasburg) at Mets (Santana), 1:10
Brewers (Gallardo) at Cubs (Dempster), 2:20
Royals (Chen) at Athletics (McCarthy), 3:35
Diamondbacks (Saunders) at Padres (Luebke), 6:35
Marlins (Johnson) at Phillies (Halladay), 7:05
Yankees (Sabathia) at Orioles (Arrieta), 7:05
Braves (Delgado) at Astros (Rodriguez), 8:05
Mariners (Millwood) at Rangers (Lewis), 8:05
Angels (Weaver) at Twins (Pavano), 8:10
Giants (Lincecum) at Rockies (Guthrie), 8:40
Pirates (Bedard) at Dodgers (Billingsley, 10:10

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