Moving up the Wild Card standings, we arrive at the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that was toe-tagged and nearly bagged no more than a month ago. Going 7-3 in their last ten games has landed the Phillies just 4.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot. I won’t beat around the bush at all, this match-up is all wrong for the Reds.
Let’s get all of the obvious facts out of the way – if we’re talking offense, we’re talking an offense that is nearly identical to the Reds. Literally, the Reds and Phillies are back to back in runs scored – the Reds have plated 636, the Phillies 627. The numbers are skewed though; the Phillies went without Howard and Utley for a large part of the season. You also can’t help but think the Reds output would be higher if Joey had been playing the entire season. The Reds have a team batting average of .255 compared to this Phillies, who sport a .256. The similarites between these two teams offensively is staggering – the Reds lead the Phillies by just one point in OBP and RBIs as well. I don’t think the away-away-home format is going to affect the offensive side of things.
The reason I don’t like this match-up for the Reds has to do entirely with pitching. It’s true the Reds have the third best team ERA in all of baseball. It’s true that the entire team ERA for the Phillies doesn’t crack the top ten. But their starting rotation actually comes in a point better than the Reds (3.79 – 3.80). The numbers don’t necessarily illustrate a major division between these two squads. But the intangibles are too much to ignore.
The Reds don’t want to play this team at Citizen Bank, a park where they are 11-22 all time, and 6-19 since ’06. You could make the argument that the Reds have actually done well against Roy Halladay, but he’ll likely be used in the Wild Card game, leaving the Reds to deal with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. In the past three years, Lee is 3-0 against the Reds with a 1.99 ERA. In that same span of time, Hamels is 4-0 with a 2.20 ERA.
Johnny Cueto is the unanimous choice for game one. In the past three years, he’s 1-2 with a 5.65 against the Phillies. A game one wrecking could set the tone for the entire series, just like in 2010.
Plus, let’s be honest. One of these teams are seasoned October professionals with hardware to prove it. The latter hasn’t won a playoff game in over a decade.
Like Apollo Creed’s manager said in Rocky I while watching Rocky break the ribs of frozen beef, “he’s all wrong for us, champ.”
I’m looking at the Phillies. And despite a respectable record of 3-4 against them this year, I echo his sentiments – they’re all wrong for this Reds team.
Prediction: Phillies advance winning series 3-2.