I guess it was a few years ago when I realized that the Phillies had a pretty tough ballclub. Every time you beat them, you have to feel good about it. They might do it in an ugly fashion but they’re always there to beat your ass. They seem to win in spite of a manager that cannot get out of the way of his own sentences. They might not look like world beaters on paper, but this current group is always in the middle of any discussion in who is the toast of the NL.
Tonight the Reds open a 9 game homestand that is as important as any they’ll have in the 2009 season. They’re a less then subpar 7-9 at home this season. They have nearly an identical record with the Phillies, who they’ll face for 3 games before welcoming in inferior opponents in Cleveland and Houston. And as a Reds fan I’m nervous as hell.
Tonight’s game happens to be of uber-importance. Cole Hamels takes the hill and being one of the better lefties in all of the NL, the Reds will always have a tough time beating him. In fact, it’s not like they really strive to beat Hamels. They can’t do it. They have to hope to wait him out, rely on his mistakes or the fielders behind him making mistakes. If he shuts the Reds down it will come as no surprise and it won’t be the first time we’ve seen it happen. The game is also going to be one the Reds just have to gut out because they’re probably going to be without Joey Votto for some time. Like it or not he’s been the Reds most consistent hitter. The Reds send Johnny Cueto to the hill tonight, and he’s their best pitcher. Cueto has one of the lowest ERA’s in the NL so if you use him up and don’t get a victory, it could be tough sledding from there on out.
And we’ve got to worry about the same guys that always hurt you with the Phillies. They seemingly have so many weapons. So many tough outs. Who is going to get you? Rollins? Victorino? Howard? Werth? Utley? It seems to be someone different every night for this Philadelphia club.
The Reds then face another lefty in Jamie Moyer tomorrow night who has an inflated ERA, but I’d be willing to bet he gets healthy against the Reds. He’s the type of pitcher the Reds have not hit well over the last 5 years. For some reason this team just cannot beat a left-handed pitcher no matter what kind of stuff he brings. If there is a southpaw on the bump, they seem to get themselves out.
It makes thursday’s game (an afternoon contest) look like an automatic win with Joe Blanton on the hill. This team would almost rather face any righty you can name (save Oswalt) then a lefty. And we know it’s really not the case that thursday is a sure deal either. The Reds have a huge test facing them the next three days at home and if they cannot defend their home turf they’ll be starting a .500 season record in the face. It would be deflating for the fan base after being so elated around this time last week.
This is the turning point in the Reds season. Someone must step up who is not supposed to in order for them to win. They need a warrior-like effort from the Hanigans, the Rosales’, from the Nix’s in addition to guys that have to find a way like Bruce, Phillips, Cueto, and Taveras. That is a lot to ask. That’s also what you get when you’re out-gunned by your opponent.