Phillies 97-65; 1st in NL East Reds: 91-71; 1st in NL Central
Game 1: Edinson Volquez (4-3, 4.31) vs. Roy Halladay (21-10, 2.44)
Game 2: Bronson Arroyo (17-10, 3.88) vs. Roy Oswalt (13-13, 2.76)
Game 3: Cole Hamels (12-11, 3.06) vs. Johnny Cueto (12-7, 3.64)
Game 4*: TBA
Game 5*: TBA
Game 1: Wednesday, Oct. 7 – 5:00, TBS
Game 2: Friday, Oct. 9 – 6:00, TBS
Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 11 – TBA
Game 4*: Monday, Oct. 12 – TBA
Game 5*: Wed, Oct. 14 – TBA
Three Phillies to Watch
Roy Halladay: After a decade in Toronto, Doc will finally reach the post season and will do so as the ace of the Phillies, a team that has been in the playoffs each of the last three years, winning the World Series in 2008 and losing in the World Series in 2009. Halladay was 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA during the regular season. His nine complete games and four shut outs led the majors along with his 250.1 innings pitched. He is the front runner for the NL Cy Young.
Chase Utley: Surprisingly, he’s going to be the key to the Phils offense this series. The left-handed hitter will be facing three right-handers in the Reds rotation, maybe four. Utley was hurt most of the season but finished off very strong, hitting .323 with five homers and 22 RBIs in the month of September. Utley has the ability to change a series, using his five homers in the World Series last year as an example.
Carlos Ruiz: Ruiz is as clutch a hitter as the Phillies have had in the past two World Series runs. Chooch had a career year, leading the team in hitting with a .302 average and had multiple go-ahead, game-tying and winning, and walk-off hits for the Phils this season. With a tied or one-run game this series, Chooch could be trusted to deliver with a clutch hit. He also is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball and calls a very good game for all three of the Phils aces.
Three Reds to Watch
Joey Votto: Votto should be the NL MVP, finishing in the top three in average, homers, RBIs, and OPS (.324/37/113/1.024). There isn’t much more to say about the 27-year-old, who led the Reds to there first post season since 1995. He’s challenging division rival Albert Pujols for the best first baseman in the NL, who put up similarly scary stats as well. If the Reds want to win their first title in 20 years, it rests solely on the broad shoulders of Votto.
Scott Rolen: The former Phillie is playing the team that drafted him for the first time ever in the post season. Rolen enjoys playing against his former team, hitting a career .333 with four homers and 30 RBIs in 162 career at-bats His trips to Philly guarantee a good booing from the home crowd in which he still admits to loving. His 20 homers were the highest he’s hit and his 83 RBIs were the most he’s driven in since 2006, showing his back is much better than the past few years in which he’s been hurt.
Jonny Gomes: Gomes is the five-hitter in Cincy’s dangerous three-four-five. Protecting Rolen in the order, Gomes hit .266 with 18 homers and 86 RBIs. He’s their weakest fielding outfielder though with the lowest percentage of the three in the outfield. But he’s there for the bat and that’s what makes him such a dangerous and valuable part of the Reds offense.
Phillies: The Phillies boast one of the best hitting line ups from the lead-off spot through the eight-hole. Towards the end of the season, Shane Victorino has stepped up nicely as the lead-off man and should continue to be the guy who jump starts the offense in the NLDS.
Batting in the two-spot is Placido Polanco. Polanco was an immediate improvement offensively, filling a very large whole left by Pedro Feliz, not because Feliz was ever good but because Feliz was so bad, he was often a sure out.
The three-four-five is the best in baseball with Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth. Utley is Utley. Howard was fourth in the majors with 108 RBIs while hitting .278 with 31 homers. Werth tears it up in the postseason and will look to make as much noise as possible heading into a money-fueled off season.
Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins, and Ruiz round out the starting eight. All have the ability to come up with the clutch hit, especially Chooch aka Senior Octobre.
Reds: The Reds boasted the top offensive team in the NL with a team average of .272. Their 188 home runs and 761 RBIs also led the NL, giving them the team Triple Crown.
Votto, Gomes, Rolen, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips round out an offense that can be very scary. Bruce finished second on the team in homers with 25. He also hit .281 and drove in 70 runs. Phillips is the lead-off man and spark plug for the Reds while scoring 100 runs as the team scored an NL leading 790 runs.
Orlando Cabrera can still play good baseball, even at his age. Defensively, he’s still one of the best second basemen in the game. Drew Stubbs is turning into one of the better young hitters in the majors and has enjoyed a nice season with Cincy, hitting .255 with 22 homers and 77 RBIs.
Phillies: The Big Three is going to be the story for the Phils. Roy Oswalt has been a man on a mission since joining the Phils, seeing his ERA drop 0.70 since the trade. Only one other time in his career was he in the post season, losing to the White Sox in the 2005 World Series. Cole Hamels has the most postseason experience of the Big Three. He has pitched in all three of the Phils past post season efforts and was the MVP of the 2008 World Series.
Reds: In a surprise move, Cincy is throwing Edinson Volquez on the hill in game one against Doc. Then their ace, Bronson Arroyo will take on Oswalt in game two. Arroyo has been their best pitcher, posting a 17-10 record and 3.88 ERA. He leads the team with two complete games while Johnny Cueto, the game three starter, has the team’s only complete game shut out. Mike Leake enjoyed a great rookie season and it will be interesting to see if he pitches game four.
Phillies: This is Philadelphia’s lone weak link, unless they can get seven innings out of their starters which is very likely every start. Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge are back to being the lights-out back two-inning tandem they were in 2008 when they closed out 48 of 48 games together. The middle of the pen is where it gets shaky. J.C. Romero is the left-handed specialist for the Phils, a very scary thought.
The weakness of the pen and shortness of this series may allow the Phils to actually carry a larger bench and a smaller pen. With Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick, the other two starters available to pitch in the pen, they can give up a roster spot to another bat, likely carrying 11 pitchers and 14 hitters.
Reds: Arthur Rhodes is their closer. To Phils fans, that’s no threat at all and is in fact rather hilarious. But don’t let his tenure in Philly fool you. Rhodes has a 2.55 ERA in 55 innings pitched this season, acting as Cincy’s ace in the pen.
The closer for Cincy though is Francisco Cordero. Cordero may have saved 40 games but he blew eight of them. He’s not a scary closer at all if you’re the Phillies. Reds fans, though, sit at the edge of their seats when he’s in. And with the ninth-inning antics the Phils are so used to, I’d be worried too.