The Philadelphia Phillies have once again made the playoffs. This comes as no shock to the casual baseball fan because the Phillies were highly favored to do so at the beginning of the season. A lineup that featured Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth look poised to once again lead the team to October baseball. Recent acquisition of Roy Halladay also boosted the pitching staff that was looking for a bounce back year from Cole Hamels. Yes this Phillies lineup was supposed to go far, that is until the injuries hit.
It all started game one of the season when Jimmy Rollins went down 7 games into the season with a hamstring injury. Little did Phillies fans know at the time that the injury to Rollins was only the beginning? During the season the Phillies saw their entire lineup, except for left fielder Raul Ibanez and right fielder Jayson Werth, hit the disabled list. Jimmy Rollins missed 74 games this season with hamstring injuries. Chase Utley missed a month recovering from hand surgery, and Ryan Howard missed three weeks with a bruised ligament. The walking wounded though pressed on.
Guys filled in, guys stepped up, and that bench that we heard was bolstered in the off season proved their worth this season. I don’t know if Charlie Manuel will win National League Manager of the Year but if he doesn’t it’s a travesty. As my one good friend had pointed out “If Bobby Cox had led an injury plagued team to 97 wins he would be a shoe in for Manager of the Year”. A statement that is definitely true yet if you were to ask ESPN Baseball expert Buster Olney he says San Diego’s Bud Black should win. While Black did a great job his team failed to make the playoffs and didn’t come near the majors’ best record.
That right for the first time in team history the Philadelphia Phillies finished with the best record in baseball. It’s an accomplishment that many couldn’t imagine when the team was struggling in the middle of the season. A slump that saw many “die hard” jump off the bandwagon. The Phillies however battled back and made believers out of the doubters. This season the Phillies failed to play with their starting 8 (Rollins, Polanco, Utley, Howard, Werth, Ibanez, Victorino, Ruiz) more than two times in a row.
Unlike their rivals the New York Mets who missed multiple starters in 2009 and used it as an excuse for poor play, this Phillies team didn’t want excuses but wanted results. If they can manage to get back to the World Series, which they are favored to do, they will be the first National League team to go to three straight World Series since the 42-44 St. Louis Cardinals. If they reach the series the word “Dynasty” might not be out of the question for arguably the best Phillies team to ever step on a field.
They will be facing off against the underdog Cincinnati Reds. Led by a former manager of a World Series team, Dusty Baker, this Reds team defied the odds and made it to October. Coming out of the National League Central they dethroned the power house that was the St. Louis Cardinals. Many treated this current Reds team like the 2008 Rays. The term “it won’t last” was often used to describe the young team’s success. However led by MVP candidate Joey Votto this team is looking to make a statement and show they can beat the big team.
This isn’t the Cincinnati Reds that you knew from years past. Names like Sean Casey, Adam Dunn, and even Barry Larkin won’t be found. Replaced with guys like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips this is a young team that just never stopped winning. A healthy dose of veterans and youngsters this is a good mix of talent with names that you would recognize but not necessarily be scared of. Scott Rolen will make his return to Philly and likely won’t receive the reaction that Eagles QB Donovan McNabb got this past Sunday. While it’s been nearly 10 years since he asked the Phillies to trade him, the fans haven’t been able to forgive or forget. Also helping the youngsters is another post season veteran, short stop Orlando Cabrera.
This team however is really led by their pitchers. The young guns will be on display this series for sure as the Reds will send out 27 year old Edinson Volquez for game 1 of the NLDS. Volquez is coming off his second poor season posting just a 4.31 ERA in just 12 starts this season. He was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a banned substance which resulted in the low work load. Even with his poor season he is a kid with electric stuff and has a career .73 ERA against the Phillies in his career.
In game two the Reds will send out veteran pitcher Bronson Arroyo. His fifth season with the red legs was a success as he went 17-10 with a 3.88 ERA. The work horse has given Cincinnati at least 200 innings in each season he’s been with the team and has been a good return for outfielder Willy Mo Pena. While Arroyo put together a solid season in 2010 he doesn’t favor well against the Phillies in his career posting a 5.54 ERA against the Phils and is just 1-5 in 8 starts.
In game three the Reds send out arguably their best pitcher in Johnny Cueto. Cueto was 12-7 with a 3.64 ERA for the 2010 campaign. He was the Reds ace this year which is makes you wonder why he’s starting game three and not game one. His last start against the Phillies he dominated going 7 IP giving up just 1 ER but in his career against the Phillies he has an ERA near 6 (5.96) and has won just 1 game out of the four he has started.
The Phillies will throw H2O at the Reds and if you’re not familiar with the nickname it stands for Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt. The best Phillies 1-2-3 punch they have ever had is going to make their post season debut and ace Roy Halladay will make his much anticipated post season debut.
Halladay goes in game one and will face off against Volquez. Halladay is likely going to win the NL CY Young award this season as he was flat out filthy this season and came as advertised when the Phillies acquired him from the Blue Jays. Halladay went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA in his first season as a Phillie. He also struck out 219 batters and walked just 30. His 9 complete games and 4 shut outs were a league best and he also added a perfect game this season to his resume. It doesn’t take much to get Roy Halladay motivated but he wants this bad. He came to Philly to win a World Series and he will have that look (if you watch the guy you know what look I’m referring too) on Wednesday. Lifetime against the Reds he has a 2.84 ERA
Roy Oswalt was acquired by the Phillies when they were close to rock bottom. The former ace of the Houston Astros has boosted this rotation in ways that no one could have anticipated. Oswalt had a 6-12 record when he arrived in Philly but managed to finish the year with a 13-13 record. With the Phillies he was 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA and his career ERA in Citizens Bank Park is an astonishing 2.10 with a 9-0 record. His career against the Reds is
Finally the Phillies top off their playoff rotation with a former World Series MVP. Cole Hamels has had a bounce back season to the tune of 12-11 record with a 3.06 ERA. The Lefty will look to dominate the Reds again like he has in his career. During his short career the 25 year old has a 6-0 record with a 1.07 ERA.
The Phillies lineup is lefty heavy with Utley, Howard, and Ibanez all batting from the right side. This comes into play with the three lefties that the Reds could throw at them this season. Arthur Rhodes is a former Phillie and a journey man who at the age of 40 made his first All Star team, a team that was led by Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. Rhodes had a 4-4 record this season with a 2.29 ERA with one of those losses coming at the hands of Ryan Howard who capped off an amazing seven run comeback on July 9th. Rhodes is actually faced better off righties (.182 batting average) then off lefties (.214 batting average).
Rhodes isn’t the only leftie however that can possibly shut down the Phillies left handed bats. The Phillies might have to face Travis Wood who faced the Phillies on July 10th and was three outs away from a perfect game. In his rookie season Wood went 5-4 with a 3.51 ERA in 17 starts. Lefties were batting just .136 off of him this season.
Finally the Phillies will have to face one of the biggest rookie sensations not named Stephen Strasburg. After defecting from Cuba Aroldis Chapman signed a surprising deal with the Reds. In another surprise he didn’t make the club out of spring training and was sent to Louisville to work out his control problems. When he finally was recalled and lit the radar gun on fire. In just 13 1/3 innings Chapman dazzled fans with a fastball that topped out at a record 105 MPH. In his very short big league career lefties are hitting just .154 and he has never faced the Phillies.
Finally the Phillies and Reds faced off seven times in 2010 with the Phillies coming out on top in the regular season 5-2. The Reds took a three game series from the Phillies back in June two games to one. They even managed to give Roy Halladay one of his ten losses in that series after Jay Bruce hit an 8th inning Halladay offering which gave the Reds the lead, and the series win. However when the Reds headed to Philly for a four game set in July they left with four straight losses as the Phillies had to come from behind and win the first three of the four games.
The Phillies are highly favored and it’s hard to not envision them heading on to their third straight NLCS. While the story of the 2010 Reds is great it’s hard to see their lineup, or any lineup for that matter matching up against the Phillies 1-2-3 punch. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Phillies finish the Reds off in a sweep and if the series ended Sunday it wouldn’t surprise me.