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NLDS Preview: Reds vs. Phillies

Oct 5, 2010, 2:59 PM EDT

It's not right to cast this series as "the upstart Reds" vs. "the battle-tested Phillies," but you're probably safe to go with the rest of your predispositions when it comes to this matchup.

Here at HardballTalk we pride ourselves on writing dozens of posts a
day obsessing on every single little thing possible. We’re told,
however, that some of you have lives and thus not all of you are able to
read dozens of posts a day obsessing on every single little thing
possible.  That’s a shame, but for that reason, we’ve put together a few
previews covering the broad strokes of each of the four Division Series
matchups, which will pop up between now and first pitch on Wednesday
afternoon. Let’s begin, shall we?

The Matchup: Cincinnati Reds (91-71) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (97-65)

How’ve they been doing?
The Phillies were phenomenal in the season’s last month, winning 23 of their last 30.  The Reds were below .500 over that time, losing a lot more games to not-so-great teams than they should have.

Haven’t I seen you before?
The Phillies won the season series 5-2. The Reds beat the Phillies 3-0 in the 1976 NLCS. With the exception of Jamie Moyer, however, the rosters have turned over so that shouldn’t have much bearing here.

Who’s pitching?
The Phillies are — surprise surprise — going to trot out fellas by the name of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels. The Reds counter with Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto.  You’d think that Travis Wood — a lefty who took a perfecto into the ninth inning against the Phillies back in July — would get a look-see, but I guess not. To be fair, though, that was a very different Phillies team back in July than the one playing now, and Wood has had really only one spiffy start in the past couple of months.

The storyline which doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things
but which TBS will nonetheless beat to death

I won’t say it doesn’t matter, because it does, but the “Phillies are vulnerable to lefties” thing has less traction this year than in years past. As Ken Rosenthal noted over at FOX, Chase Utley actually did better against lefties this year than he did against righties and Ryan Howard’s splits are less extreme than they have been historically. Granted, Howard’s splits were narrowed due to a bigger dropoff against righties than an improvement against lefties, but he has done better.  I’m still looking forward to seeing Aroldis Chapman brought in to face Utley and Howard, but it won’t necessarily be the same dynamic we’re used to seeing when the Phillies face a lefty late.

Oh, and the storyline we’re going to get absolutely sick of is the “Big Three” or “H20″ or whatever it is we’re calling Halladay-Hamels-Oswalt these days. But just because we’re sick of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. It’s basically everything in this series, I’m afraid.

The storyline which actually does matter but about which TBS won’t spend a lot of time
talking

Not saying it matters too much, but I would not be at all surprised if there is a big focus on “the battle-hardened Phillies” vs. the “wet-behind-the-ears” Reds.  Such a thing is tempting to beat into the ground, but if TBS does this, they’ll have to ignore the fact that The Reds do have playoff experience. Ramon Hernandez, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Orlando Cabrera, Bronson Arroyo, Jonny Gomes and Arthur Rhodes have all played in October. And, oh yeah, Dusty Baker managed a team to within one win of a World Series title himself.  These guys won’t be deer in the headlights. Roy Halladay will be the most important guy on the field in Game 1, and he’s never played in the postseason.

What’s gonna go down?
The phrase “anything can happen in a short series” is true because, yeah, anything can happen in a short series.  And just ask Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz how often being “The Big Three” ended up not mattering in the end.  But really, the Reds are outgunned here, and there’s no way to get around that fact. Sure, I can envision a scenario in which Halladay has a bad start for some reason, Manuel has to go to the bullpen early and everything gets thrown off kilter. But I kinda doubt it. 

I’ll call it the Phillies in 4 simply because it seems rude to predict a sweep, but let’s just say that I will be none too surprised if a sweep goes down.  Too many arms on the Phillies. Too many good bats. Too many of the Reds gaudy team-offensive numbers were compiled against the NL Central.  I don’t think this will be particularly close.

  1. CYGNUS X-1 - Oct 5, 2010 at 3:21 PM

    maybe the phillies beat the reds but like it or not they are still a division champion! why was it ok for the cardinals to dominate every year, but when the reds win it is suddenly a weak division?

  2. Mr. Heyward - Oct 5, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    Mr. Heyward’s prediction is 100% based on hatred of the Phillies. Reds in 3.

  3. Jonny5 - Oct 5, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    This rain we may get tomorrow night could also throw a monkey wrench into the mix. It’s been cold and wet around Philly for days now.

  4. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 5, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    It was a weak division when the Cardinals won it too.

  5. Jonny5 - Oct 5, 2010 at 3:28 PM

    poopy pants division???

  6. Joe - Oct 5, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    WHY OH WHY DID THEY BUILD AN OPEN-AIR STADIUM IN MINNEAPOLIS OF ALL PLACES?

  7. Nikoli - Oct 5, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    It’s a weak division because excluding the Reds the other 5 teams were something like 70 games under .500. In what world is this not a weak division?

  8. Nikoli - Oct 5, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    I will say that starting Volquez over Arroyo in Game 1 is a great decision. Depending on the Volquez that shows up he actually has a chance to be successful. You know what you’re going to get against Arroyo every time out (about 5 or 6 runs over 5 innings).

  9. The Steve Jeltz Experiment - Oct 5, 2010 at 3:35 PM

    Phils in 5. Just because I’m stressing for no reason about this series. I’ll be more relaxed in a seven game set.

  10. Utley's hair - Oct 5, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    Like Game 5 weather.

  11. Utley's hair - Oct 5, 2010 at 4:23 PM

    You’re only stressing about it because you’re an insecure Phils Phan–though if you felt otherwise, Craig would say you’re overconfident and entitled.

    I’m insecurely confident and say the Phightins in 4, since Doc will be out there in Game 4–though I fret about his recent rash of longballs. Oh, woe is me. I think…oh, I don’t know.

  12. Utley's hair - Oct 5, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    So utterly bitter for a guy whose team is still playing. Wow.

  13. Mr. Heyward - Oct 5, 2010 at 5:50 PM

    Yeah, bitterness and a realist’s perspective that, if the Phils and Braves meet, it won’t be pretty for the latter…at least the Bravos would have a fightin’ chance at the Reds.

  14. Dustin84v - Oct 5, 2010 at 7:25 PM

    Philly needs a strong pitching performance from Halladay. Oswalt and Hamels easily handle the follow-up games. If so, the NL championship series is next …

  15. Dustin84v - Oct 5, 2010 at 7:34 PM

    Steve. go stock-up on pamprin, massengill, and vagisil for your weekend man menses. try transsexuality to break your dependence on female products.

  16. Utley's hair - Oct 5, 2010 at 7:38 PM

    The Phightins also need the second half Hollywood, and not the first half one. In his last start, he was getting agitated, and it showed, and was one of the reasons the Phils didn’t clinch at home. He needs to keep his head straight, as he did in the second half of the season.

  17. Utley's hair - Oct 5, 2010 at 10:53 PM

    One crucial thing that has yet to be addressed is this: what will Phightins Phans chant about Volquez’s suspension–while still rehabbing from (TJ?) surgery, of course.

  18. Cincy Sam - Oct 6, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    Lets all get real here. Why Dusty is starting Volquez instead of Arroyo is a mystery. He certainly thinks he knows what he is doing, but alas, he is just stupid. I never thought the Reds were going to win it all, I just felt that they had a good chance to win in the NL central. Sorry Red’s fans the Philthies in 4 at the most.

  19. TheNaturalMevs - Oct 6, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    Reds are going to win in 5. Short-sighted for a guy I give a lot more credit to than ESPN and their cast of characters who haven’t cared to learn the Reds.
    These aren’t the 2008 Phillies, who would roll this Reds team. I don’t see where the Phillies have a clear advantage other than the starting rotation; and the gap isn’t wide enough there to call them an overwhelming favorite. Respect your opinion, but the Reds are about to put themselves on the map much like some of these Phils did in 2008.

  20. soccermom17540 - Oct 6, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    No, they aren’t the 2008 Phillies. Instead of one ace, they have three.

  21. Cincy Sam - Oct 6, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    What are you drinking? the Reds are starting a guy with No post-game experience and Arroyo is on the bench. This may work out, only if they are lucky, and that is not how to plan a game. The Philthies on the other hand have Oswalt, who lost to the Reds only once in his CAREER. That was this year with the Astros, when he stunk up the league. He is the same old Oswalt now. Good luck to the Reds. Other than Oswalt, the Philthies have two other great pitchers (Cy Young winners), who handle the Reds easily. WAKE UP! This is good experience for the Reds, but they will ave to wait until next year.

  22. Utley's hair - Oct 6, 2010 at 2:58 PM

    As a Phightins fan, I agree with you about the Phils in four.

    However, Baker is starting a playoff newbie against another, and saving the grizzled (did I just type that?) veteran against one that also has experience in the postseason. And Oswalt had the same problem as Cliffy had last season–a good ERA with no run support with his old team, leading to a misinterpreted record. So don’t give up on your team…until the end, that is.

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