1st Pitch: Can't slip sliders by these guys

Quick Hits: Will Venable went 3-3 with two doubles and a triple off sliders from Jeff Weaver and Ramon Ortiz last night. The performance raised Venable’s average vs sliders this season to .474 – third highest in the majors. Let’s take a look at some other hitters who are crushing sliders this season.

* Casey McGehee is batting .481 with two home runs. Only Ryan Zimmerman (.520) has a higher batting average vs sliders.

* Alfonso Soriano is batting .390 against sliders with a league-leading 11 extra-base hits (nine doubles, two home runs).

* Marco Scutaro has been the most patient hitter against sliders this year. He’s chased just 4.5 percent of sliders he’s seen outside the strike zone.

* Andre Ethier is crushing everything this season, but he’s been particularly good against sliders. He has a well-hit average of .471, highest in the majors.

* Ty Wigginton leads the league with five homers of sliders.

* Mike Napoli is batting just .229 this season, but he’s hitting .412 with six extra-base hits against sliders.

Today’s Trivia: With 12 saves through the Blue Jays’ first 42 games, Kevin Gregg is on pace for 46 this season. If he keeps up that pace, he’ll become just the second Blue Jays closer to reach 40 saves in a season. Who would he join?

Highest Chase Pct on Sliders
Min. 75 Sliders Thrown

Today’s Leaderboard: Arguably the game’s best slider will be on display tonight in Arizona as Tim Lincecum takes the mound. Lincecum has thrown 96 sliders this season, 46 of which were out of the strike zone. Of those 46 out of the zone, hitters chased the pitch a league-high 52.2 percent of the time.

Key Matchups: Lincecum’s slider should be especially effective tonight against the Diamondbacks. As a team the D’Backs are batting .203 vs sliders, but Mark Reynolds has struggled more than most. He’s swung at 91 sliders this year, but has just three hits. In other words, Reynolds gets a hit just 3.3 percent of the time he swings at a slider.

Ricky Romero could be in line for another impressive outing tonight against the Mariners. Romero has developed one of the game’s most devastating curveballs, against which opponents are batting .103. The Mariners have truly struggled against the curve this season. Ichiro Suzuki is batting .429 against curves this season (12-28) but the rest of the team is hitting just .124. The league average against curves is .216.

Trivia Answer: Duane Ward recorded 45 saves in 1993. The Blue Jays’ career saves leader, Tom Henke, never had more than 34 in a season.