On-base machine Jake Fraley and the Reds welcome the Phillies to Great American Ball Park

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jake Fraley.
Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jake Fraley. / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
3 of 3

Reds Country, it was very nearly the week that wasn't. Despite playing in the second annual Field of Dreams Game in Dyersville, Iowa on Thursday, the Cincinnati Reds (45-68) had to rally from behind to salvage the final game of a three-game set from the Chicago Cubs to complete a forgettable 1-5 week.

Entering play today, the Redlegs occupy fourth place in the National League Central trailing the first-place St. Louis Cardinals by 17.5 games and are one game clear of the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates. After beginning the second half of the 2022 campaign with a blistering 10-6 pace, reality has reared its ugly head.

Unfortunately, the culprit is easy to define. Yesterday's eight-run outburst versus the Chicago Cubs was the first time the Reds scored more than two runs in a contest all week. To add insult to injury, the Cincinnati pitching staff allowed less than four runs in only one game last week. Needless to say, victories were hard to find.

Jake Fraley and the Reds welcome Nick Castellanos back to GABP.

The last two days notwithstanding, the winner's circle has not been as elusive for the Philadelphia Phillies (63-51) of late. Philadelphia has won seven of their last 10 contests, and sit 1.5 games in front of the Milwaukee Brewers for the final Wild Card spot in the senior circuit.

This series will feature the return of Nick Castellanos to the Queen City since leaving for the city of Brotherly Love in the offseason. Without a doubt, Castellanos was the MVP of a 2021 Cincinnati ball club that remained in contention for a playoff berth deep into September.

Castellanos hit .309/.362/.576 with 34 homers and 100 RBIs as a member of the Reds last season, but has been unable to duplicate his success with the Phillies. A dismal .256/.303/,376 slash line with 10 round-trippers and 54 ribbies is hardly what the Philadelphia front office had in mind when they inked him to a five-year/$100M deal in March.

Over the last decade, the Cincinnati Reds have dominated the Philadelphia Phillies at GABP winning 21 of the 29 contests. As a matter of fact, Philadelphia hasn't won a series in Cincinnati since Roy Halladay defeated Mike Leake in a September 5, 2012 game to secure a Phillies series victory.

Previewing the pitching matchups: Reds vs. Phillies

Cincinnati Reds starter Mike Minor vs. Philadelphia Phillies starter Noah Syndergaard

Mike Minor (1-9 6.24 ERA) gets the call in tonight's opener opposing long-time Cincinnati Reds' nemesis Noah Syndergaard (6-8 3.96 ERA) of the Philadelphia Phillies. How long has it been since Minor has defeated the Phils? It was August 31, 2012, to be exact.

To be honest, the Cincinnati southpaw hasn't been defeating anyone of late. Since arriving in the Queen City following a trade in Spring Training from the Kansas City Royals, the Reds are an abysmal 1-11 when the 34-year-old Minor is handed the starting assignment.

If history is any indication, the Redlegs will have their hands full tonight against Noah Syndergaard. In his last five starts versus the Reds, Thor is unbeaten in four decisions with an impressive 2.24 ERA while compiling 43 K's in 34.2 innings.

If Reds manager David Bell is looking to rest Joey Votto, tonight would be an excellent opportunity. Votto is 2-for-15 lifetime with seven punch outs against the Phillies right-hander.

Cincinnati Reds starter T.J. Zeuch vs. Philadelphia Phillies starter Kyle Gibson

Toeing the rubber Tuesday night will be T.J. Zeuch (0-1 13.50 ERA) while Kyle Gibson (7-5 4.29 ERA) receives the call for Rob Thomson's club. Reds Country can only hope Zeuch's outing tomorrow will be better than his Redlegs debut.

Tossing four frames versus the New York Mets last week, the Cincinnati right-hander was torched for six runs on six hits. The 26-year-old former first-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2016 draft, will be making just his ninth start in 15 big league appearances.

Cincinnati may be facing Kyle Gibson at perhaps the wrong time. In his last 20 innings of work, the Phillies right-hander has limited opponents to five runs on just 12 base hits. The 34-year-old 10-year veteran will be making his first career start versus the Reds.

Cincinnati Reds starter Nick Lodolo vs. Philadelphia Phillies starter Ranger Suarez

Wednesday's matinee series finale will feature Nick Lodolo (3-4 4.72 ERA) battling Ranger Suarez (8-5 3.52 ERA) for the visitors. To say Lodolo needs a solid start is an understatement.

In his last two outings, the Cincinnati southpaw has been roughed up for seven runs in only 9.1 innings while yielding 11 hits, eight free passes, and two round-trippers. What's equally as concerning is that Lodolo has failed to complete five frames in each of those starts.

Since being moved into the starting rotation, Ranger Suarez has been a revelation. The 26-year-old Venezuelan is 12-8 with a 3.02 ERA in 35 career starts with 32 of those outings occurring over the past two seasons.

Expect David Bell to stack his lineup with right-handed bats against the Phils' left-hander. Righties are slashing .266/.338/.413 with nine homers versus the five-year veteran this season.

Reds OF Jake Fraley has been red-hot since returning from the IL.

It's alright to still be a little salty over the spring training trade that saw the Cincinnati Reds send former All-Stars Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker to the Seattle Mariners. However, outfielder Jake Fraley is doing his best to prove that the Cincinnati front office acquired something in return.

Since returning from the IL on July 30th, the former second-round pick is 14-for-34 (.412) with two homers and six RBIs. In addition, he's had four multi-hit games. Even better is the 27-year-old LSU alum has reached base at a .444 clip over his last seven games.

What does the future hold for Fraley? That remains to be seen. Last year was the first time he eclipsed 220 at-bats in a season, so it's safe to assume that no one truly knows what kind of player he can be at the big league level.

Nevertheless, Reds Country is about to find out over the last six weeks of the season. Following the recent deals involving outfielders Tyler Naquin and Tommy Pham at the trade deadline, there's absolutely no reason for manager David Bell not to give Fraley as many opportunities as possible.

Will Jake Fraley be the next Jesse Winker? Doubtful. However, if Fraley can at least be the left-handed version of Chris Heisey, the Cincinnati Reds will take it.

Prediction: Phillies upend the Reds in their quest for the playoffs.

This series is a tale of two ball clubs going in opposite directions as we've officially hit the dog days of August. The Cincinnati Reds have absolutely nothing to play for while the Phillies have postseason baseball within their grasp.

As a result, the contrast in motivation will be apparent this series as Philadelphia takes two of three from the Reds before Cincinnati embarks on a 10-game road trip kicking off Friday in Pittsburgh to battle the Pirates.