NLDS Series Preview: Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Bruce & Werth: it really is Good vs. Evil

The Cincinnati Reds have a chance to shock the world.

I’ve went back and forth on this series several times myself. I’ve gone from, ‘we will get swept’ or ‘we will get beat in four games and go home’ and back to ‘we’ll find a way to win this thing’ and back more times than you can count in a week since I’ve figured that we’re playing Philly.

Yes, we were swept in Philadelphia earlier in the season. And yes, the Phillies are the worst possible match-up that we could have drawn in this postseason.

But the Reds have had a season filled with magic. Several things have happened if you have watched this season closely that allows baseball fans to say the wonderful old adage: “It’s just one of those years” for our Reds. When that happens, it’s a dangerous thing. It was just one of those years for those 1997 Cleveland Indians. They were hardly the most talented team in a playoff field that included the mighty Yankees and Orioles, but upon limping into the playoffs with 88 wins, they caught fire at the right time and knocked off some heavyweights in route to an American League pennant. They also had a collection of great young ballplayers who were just beginning to find their way mixed in with some guys who got some clutch and veteran hits.

I’ll say it right now before the post is through, if you think the Cincinnati Reds are going to be intimidated or lay down for these ‘mighty’ Phillies, you’re as wrong as can be. I think if you’re one of these people saying that these Phillies are the most well-rounded team in the playoffs this year, you’re not looking hard enough. This Phillies team has some great strengths and they’re a very dangerous team, but they’ve got some problems as well. These are not the Phillies of 2008 or even last season. These Phillies have chinks in their armor.

Ryan Howard and Chase Utley crawled to the finish line this season, finishing with .276 and .275 averages respectively. They were both banged up for parts of this year and while they’re sure to get some big knocks and maybe even leave the yard in this series–I’m not ready to declare these two great ballplayers on top of their game at this time. I think they’re nicked up and I think they’re going to go out and give it all they have. I think that is where the opening to compete begins for the Cincinnati Reds.

It’s been well documented on this blog that Roy Oswalt owned the Cincinnati Reds for most of a decade. That however, is in the past. Since May of 2009, the tide has turned for Roy Oswalt against the Reds. The new-blood Redlegs have allowed Oswalt to post the following numbers since then: 0-4, 6.65 ERA, 30 H, 8 BB, 5 HR in 23 innings pitched.

Here’s the thing: in game 1 with Edinson Volquez facing off against the mighty Roy Halladay (whom the Reds beat on June 30th in dramatic fashion and nearly again in Travis Wood’s near-perfect game), I think the Reds will jump out quickly and make a game out of it. I don’t know if they win; but I know the game will be close late. Call it a gut feeling by a blogger who isn’t basing it on a stat or anything like that. But the Reds know something we all don’t by letting Volquez (who is just a year removed from Tommy John surgery) start the biggest game in franchise history in over 15 years. This means they feel that Volquez has the capability to go toe to toe with the best in the game. This was the man traded for Josh Hamilton, mind you. I don’t know how Volquez will be over the next 10 seasons. I don’t know how the balances and scales end up on that trade over a lifetime. But I know Volquez is going to shine and earn his keep this postseason. I look for him to give the Phillies all they can handle and to possibly give the Reds a shocking 1-0 lead in the series.

Again, I want you to throw all stats out the window and forget that I’m a Reds fan. Believe me, I’m not going to pick the Reds to have success in every series and I’m far from a simple homer fan; but things are in place for this team to rattle some balances in this postseason, and a first round upset of the Phillies would do just that.

Two players who most outsiders would give the positional edge to would be Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth (over Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce). There would be little argument except for the fact that over the last two months, Stubbs and Bruce have played at an All-Star and even MVP levels for the Reds; adding Gold-Glove defense at both positions. There are spots that the Phillies hold the edge over the Reds in this series, but those two positions should not be included in that.

This is a very closely matched series, and when you look at what the experts have been saying and what they will be saying; they’re very off base in giving the Philadelphia Phillies an overwhelming edge and saying that the Reds are down by insurmountable odds. This series is going to be a nail-biter and it’s too bad that it’s not a best of seven, because it would come right down to the end.

The Reds have a surplus of arms; and while the Phillies might have two starters who can be more dominant, the Reds sum is greater than each of the Phillies parts as one. They Reds have a lot of arms coming out of that bullpen who can shorten games and create match-up problems for the Phillies; a team who doesn’t hit left-handed pitching as well as most great teams do. I like the Reds bullpen a lot more than I like the Phillies

I think this series will go to a deciding game five. I don’t think the Reds are shocking enough to beat Roy Halladay twice in this series and I don’t exactly know how it works out. I don’t think this Reds season ends with a World Championship; but I don’t think it ends here against the Philadelphia Phillies.

I want you to remember that I’ve been right on gut feelings before. And I want you to trust in the fact that if anyone would say this is where the story ends, that I would be that individual. But the Reds are going to find a way. There’s going to be a little magic in this series and there’s going to be the emergence of some lesser-known heroes who are about to get noticed on the big stage that is the bunting and bright lights of the MLB Playoffs.

The Reds are going to shock the world. And the major-market experts and ESPN talking heads who don’t follow the intricacies and know the personality of a team like this blogger/fan does are about to show the world that there are no guarantees come October.

The Phillies are a good team, but this isn’t their year; and they’re in for a rude awakening and quite frankly the fight of their lives.

Our Prediction: Cincinnati Reds over Philadelphia Phillies in 5 games.