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Preview: Halladay Takes The Mound As Phillies Face Reds

(Sports Network) – The Philadelphia Phillies have needed extra innings and stirring late comebacks to win the first two matchups of their four-game series with the Cincinnati Reds. With Roy Halladay set to pitch tonight, it shouldn’t be so difficult for the two-time reigning National League champions to come up with another victory.

The Phillies have had to work hard to take the initial two meetings of this set, following up Thursday’s 4-3, 12-inning triumph with an improbable 9-7 decision last night. Philadelphia erupted for six runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the contest, then prevailed on Ryan Howard’s two-run homer off All-Star reliever Arthur Rhodes in the 10th.

Cincinnati appeared to be well on its way to evening this series, taking a 7-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth with starter Mike Leake cruising on the mound. However, the rookie allowed a leadoff double to Shane Victorino and a run-scoring base hit to Howard before Jayson Werth singled to put two men. Greg Dobbs then delivered a three-run homer into the right-field seats to chase Leake and bring the Phils within 7-5.

Francisco Cordero took over for Leake and walked Ben Francisco with two out, and pinch-hitter Cody Ransom followed with another home run that knotted the score and forced extra innings. After Ryan Madson (2-0) retired the side in order in the top of the 10th, Howard followed Raul Ibanez’s leadoff double with an opposite-field blast off Rhodes (3-3) to complete the comeback.

Howard finished 3-for-4 with three RBI for Philadelphia, which remained 5 1/2 games back of Atlanta for first place in the NL East race, while Ibanez also had three hits and scored twice in the win.

The Reds did some heavy hitting of their own on the night. Johnny Gomes went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBI to pace the team’s 15-hit attack, with Miguel Cairo adding three hits and knocking in two runs in a losing cause. Leake did his part as well at the plate, collecting three hits in four at-bats and driving in a run with a single.

“I wish we had a whole lot more runs than we had,” Reds manager Dusty Baker remarked. “No lead [at Citizens Bank Park] is safe.”

Leake, who had set down 14 of his last 15 batters faced entering the ninth, was charged with five runs on nine hits in 8 1/3 innings.

“Leake threw a great game. He kept us off balance,” said Howard. “We were just able to put something together in the last inning to score six runs and tie it up. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Cincinnati has now lost three of its last four tests, but still holds a two- game edge on St. Louis for the top spot in the NL Central.

The Phillies will attempt to create some more excitement when staff ace Halladay makes his final start prior to joining the NL squad for this Tuesday’s All-Star Game. The workhorse right-hander was a no-brainer selection to participate in the Midsummer Classic after amassing a 10-7 record through his first 18 starts to go along with a 2.33 earned run average, the fifth-best mark among Senior Circuit hurlers at the moment.

Halladay will be out to avenge a loss to the Reds in Cincinnati on June 30, when the 2003 American League Cy Young recipient served up homers to Joey Votto and Jay Bruce and was touched for four runs in an eight-inning stint. He rebounded with a gem against the Braves on Monday, holding the current NL East leaders to one run on five hits while striking out seven in his major league- best seventh complete game of the season.

That performance improved Halladay to 6-4 with a stellar 2.09 ERA in 10 Citizens Bank Park starts this year, which includes seven shutout innings to defeat his former Toronto Blue Jays team on June 25 in what was technically considered a road game due to a scheduling conflict.

This will be Halladay’s fourth lifetime start against the Reds, with the now seven-time All-Star having gone 1-1 with a 3.97 ERA over his three previous encounters with Cincinnati.

While Halladay will be aiming for his 159th career victory tonight, Travis Wood takes another crack at his first in the big leagues when he toes the rubber for the Reds. The young prospect has made two starts since being called up from Triple-A Louisville earlier this month and received a no-decision in both outings.

Wood impressed in his Cincinnati debut back on July 1, limiting the Chicago Cubs to a pair of runs and only two hits over seven sharp innings at Wrigley Field. The 23-year-old lefty wasn’t as effective in his next assignment, though, getting reached for five runs (three earned) before exiting after 4 2/3 frames against the New York Mets this past Monday.

The Reds won two of three bouts with the Phillies in Ohio last month, but have now lost in nine of their last 11 visits to Citizens Bank Park.