What we've come to learn with the Phillies over the past three years is that it doesn't matter who's in the other dugout because the biggest enemy is oftentimes themselves. They'll take four from the Reds in exhilarating fashion then turn right around and drop easy games to the Cubs and Astros. When they're not hitting, it doesn't matter if Josh Johnson or Adalberto Mendez is pitching, they aren't hitting him.
Here are your probables, courtesy of The Good Phight.
It's easy to tell why Dusty Baker is going with Edinson Volquez in game one when you look at his last four outings. Averaging just under seven innings with no home runs allowed, a 1.5 ERA, and eight strikeouts per. But he is very wild -- check his 5.03 BB/9, higher than Jonathan Sanchez, who led the Majors in walks. Volquez has only started 21 games the past two years and while he is certainly capable of having a dominant outing against this Phillies team (see first paragraph), he's much more likely to feel the pressure and get ousted before the 5th. His ability to rack up strikeouts and keep the ball down does scare me, but if the Phillies are patient at the plate, things should work in their favor.
Game two will go to former Red Sox pitcher and wannabe Sheryl Crow Bronson Arroyo. Like Volquez, he finished the season strong, walking only 18 with hitters going .229 against him after the All-Star break. His stupid leg kick could give the Phillies hitters some trouble, but if he hangs a curveball or leaves his mediocre fastball over the plate, it'll be goodbye baseball. He's thrown his changeup much more this year (25% of the time) and cut down on his fastball and slider usage. Because of this, his changup has been less effective than in years past, making his slider that much more deadly. I imagine Jayson Werth having a tough time with it breaking away from him. Our 1-2-3-4 hitters (Rollins, Polanco, Utley, Howard) are a combined 16-44 against him for their careers.
This from Red Reporter:
Arroyo has already stated a lack of interest in playing the Phillies in the playoffs, and the best way to guarantee that is to get the 2nd seed.
Expect the word "bandbox" to be tossed around when the Reds come to town. A 1.21 HR/9 isn't pretty, and it won't get any better against this Phillies lineup.
Game three will go to hotshot Johnny Cueto. The 24-year-old Domincan posted his best ERA+ this season, due to lowering his walk and home run rates. Like Volquez, he's capable of putting up equally terrible and fantastic numbers. What comes to mind easiest is the 22-1 whooping back in July 2009, which I enjoyed from the left field seats. Cueto went two-thirds of an inning, giving up nine runs on five hits, three walks and two home runs to Shane Victorino and Greg Dobbs. That historically bad outing helps push his career ERA against the Phillies up to 5.96 in four starts. We'll only see him once in Cincinnati.
Closer Francisco Cordero had a relatively solid year, notching 40 saves while blowing eight. A HR/9 of 0.62 is respectable for a reliever, but a 4.46 BB/9 could be his undoing. Capable of imploding after a leadoff walk, patience will be imperative for the guys facing him in a save situation.
Aroldis Chapman most likely won't see much action, but Dusty could get frisky and give him a key role. I'd bank on him coming in to retire Chase and Ryan in the 6th/7th inning. The other lefty they're carrying is a familiar one: Arthur Rhodes. His career arc is very typical of a reliever -- colossal ups and miserable downs. This season's been up for the former Phil, a BAA of .196 and a WHIP of 1.02. Phillies hitters have always had a tought time with him. Howard and Utley are a lifetime 3-15 against him.
Young studs Travis Wood and Homer Bailey will be the long men with Logan Ondrusek and Nick Masset coming in for the 7th/8th innings. It's a solid bullpen, but not overpowering.
1. Brandon Phillips (R-2B)
v. Halladay: 4-14, 2 2B, 1 BB, 4 K
v. Oswalt: 12-38, 5 2B, 2 BB, 2 K
v. Hamels: 2-22, 1 3B, 7 K
The thing you always hear about Brandon Phillips is he could be one of the best players in baseball if he had a good head on his shoulders. I don't typically buy that logic except in this instance, he lets it affect his swing and how he runs the bases and fields. I'm not a fan, but he's strong enough to hit any pitch out and undisciplined enough to swing at balls out of the zone. This year, his home runs are down, he hasn't been stealing bases at an efficient clip, and he still doesn't walk.
2. Orlando Cabrera (R-SS)
v. Halladay: 13-48, 2 2B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 10 K
v. Oswalt: 3-12, 1 BB, 1 K
v. Hamels: Never faced.
He's been playing for 45 years at this point. This is his first year back in the NL since his days as an Expo, and he's been typical Cabrera. No power, no patience at the plate, no strikeouts. He's Wilson Valdez only scrappier looking. A great 2-hitter without the abilities Polanco still possesses. I'm still worried he goes 6-11 in the series with three doubles and a wall-scraping home run, but that's just me.
3. Joey Votto (L-1B)
v. Halladay: 3-11, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 3 K
v. Oswalt: 10-30, 2 2B, 2 HR, 1 BB, 4 K
v. Hamels: 2-9, 1 2B, 2 BB, 1 K
Plain and simple, he's a stud. Pitch around him if you can, give him absolutely nothing on the inside part of the plate. He's better at handling breaking pitches than Ryan Howard is, but you should pitch him the same you would Big Brown. Away away away. I'm terrified of him coming up with runners on base.
4. Scott Rolen (R-3B)
v. Halladay: 1-5, 1 K
v. Oswalt: 9-42, 5 2B, 2 BB, 7 K
v. Hamels: 3-12, 1 2B, 2 BB, 3 K
By staying healthy and getting regular at-bats, Rolen's power numbers have jumped this season, his .497 slugging percentage and .212 ISO as high as they've been since 2006. He doesn't handle cutters well, so if Halladay can get that late bite on his pitches, he should induce a ton of ground balls off Rolen's bat. Scott has to be pumped to be playing in this series, even as far removed we are from his Phillies years. Hopefully the crowd receives him well because he's really turned himself into a decent guy in addition to a hell of a baseball player.
5. Jonny Gomes (R-LF)
v. Halladay: 9-32, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 9 K
v. Oswalt: Faced him once, walked.
v. Hamels: 1-5, 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 K
A .164 ISO this season is a huge dropoff from the past two years of .201 and .274 with the Reds and Rays. He's been a historically bad fielder, which accounts for his slim WPA of 0.43. He's a fastball hitter and has trouble with sliders and change-ups. Keep him guessing and he shouldn't hurt us too badly.
6. Jay Bruce (L-RF)
v. Halladay: 3-11, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 K
v. Oswalt: 7-29, 2 2B, 1 BB, 1 K
v. Hamels: 1-12, 1 HR, 2 K
I'm more worried about his arm in right than I am about his bat. His power numbers rose with his strikeouts this year and keeps a steady eye at the plate. He has the most trouble with sliders and pitches with late life. If the ball is straight or hanging, he can knock it out to either field. That being said, he is still very young and this is his first playoff series.
7. Drew Stubbs (R-CF)
v. Halladay: 1-6 3 K
v. Oswalt: 2-6, 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 K
v. Hamels: 1-3
Traditionally known for his speed, the 26-year-old actually hit 22 bombs this season as a full-time center fielder. He's a dangerous threat at the bottom of the order and could steal a few runs for the Reds over the course of this series. Stubbs doesn't have a quick bat so if you get a fastball in on him, he won't be able to get his hands around fast enough to make solid contact. He gets his bat on a lot of balls though so he could work the pitch count against the starters. I'm probably more worried about him than I should be.
8. Ramon Hernandez (R-C)
v. Halladay: 13-37, 2 2B, 1 BB, 2 K
v. Oswalt: 5-11, 1 HR, 2 BB
v. Hamels: 3-6, 1 2B, 1 HR
He's got the best numbers against the Phillies starters than anyone not named Joey Votto. His .297 batting average benefitted from a high BABIP and his first wRC+ over 100 since 2006. He lacks the power he had with the Padres and Orioles but he's still capable of popping one if you pipe one. He also swings at 30% of pitches out of the zone so you don't have to paint with him. He does a great job of keeping runners honest, throwing out 18 of 53 base-stealers this season.
Ryan Hanigan is a serviceable backup catcher, Laynce Nix and former-Phillie Miguel Cairo put the ball in play a lot, and Chris Heisey is around mostly for his defense. Same for Paul Janish. Juan Francisco got the last spot over Jim Edmonds because the old guy wasn't healthy enough to play. Even though I despise Edmonds and think he's a waste of time at his age, it's better that the threat of his bat is out of the question. Not a special bench but not a weak one either.
There's something about the Reds I don't like. Aside from Votto, they have a capable but unspectacular lineup without any real weak spots. If they got hot at the right time and balls start dropping (puberty pun intended), I wouldn't be shocked if they won this series in five. But I don't think the Reds starters can win three games over the Phillies threesome. Barring a July-like offensive drought, I say Phillies in four.
It starts today.