(Sports Network) – The Reds have been dealt the tough task during this series with the Phillies of facing some talented starting pitchers that are well rested. That trend continues this evening when Cliff Lee takes the hill for the first time in nine days looking to win his sixth straight start in the third of four straight games versus Cincinnati.
The Reds came into Monday’s opener having won four straight, but were bested by Cole Hamels in his return from a stint on the disabled list. Last night saw Cincinnati square off against Roy Halladay, who pitched for the first time since Aug. 21 because of rainouts and off days, and the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner hurled seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball in a 9-0 rout.
Halladay won his 16th game of the season and was backed by four home runs from the offense. The right-hander did his part at the plate as well, roping a three-run double for his first RBI of the season.
“That consistency means a lot to pitchers,” he told the Phillies’ website. “It’s hard when it’s broken up as much as it’s been in the last couple weeks.”
Ryan Howard had two of the four homers, giving him 29 on the season and putting him over the 100-RBI mark for a sixth consecutive season, which is a club record. Howard has reached 30 homers in each of his previous five seasons.
Hunter Pence and Raul Ibanez added home runs for the Phillies, who own a 7 1/2 game lead for the top spot in the NL East.
Lee looks to extend that advantage tonight in his first start since a win over the Mets on Aug. 22. Lee threw seven shutout innings in that one, his third scoreless outings in his past four, and scattered three hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. The southpaw also set a new career high with 191 strikeouts, surpassing the mark of 185 set a season ago.
“I was throwing a lot of strikes early. Working ahead in the count,” said Lee, who is 4-0 with a 0.58 earned run average in four starts this month and hasn’t lost since July 25.
Lee, who turned 33 on Tuesday, beat the Reds on May 26, giving up four runs over eight innings with eight strikeouts as part of his 14-7 mark and 2.71 ERA on the season. Lifetime versus Cincinnati, he is 5-2 with a 4.66 ERA.
Philadelphia has won nine of its last 10 regular-season meetings with Cincinnati in addition to its sweep of the club in last year’s NL Division Series and appears headed to a fifth straight division title.
The Reds, meanwhile, are unlikely to get a chance at defending their NL Central crown as they sit 13 1/2 games off the pace after falling back below .500 at 67-68.
One bright spot continues to be Brandon Phillips, who extended his hitting streak to 13 straight games since moving into the leadoff spot. He is batting .429 (24-for-56) in that span, but couldn’t help the Reds overcome Bronson Arroyo’s shaky 5 1/3-inning outing in which he allowed five earned runs.
Dontrelle Willis will look to get the Reds into the win column in this series tonight with his first victory since June 5 of last year.
The left-hander has gone 0-3 with a 4.10 ERA in nine starts since joining the Reds rotation and has pitched some decent outings. He hasn’t factored into the decision of his past two starts, including a 4-3 win over the Nationals on Friday. Willis allowed three runs on six hits and five walks over seven innings, throwing a season-high 123 pitches and matching a career high with three hits at the plate.
The 29-year-old former Marlin has plenty of experience versus the Phillies, going 8-7 with a 4.33 ERA in 21 outings against them.