Philadelphia Phillies vs.The Cincinnati Reds Preview

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Philadelphia Phillies vs.The Cincinnati Reds Preview
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Since the franchise was born 127 years ago, the Philadelphia Phillies have never finished the season with the best record in the MLB.

Their 11-5 win over the Atlanta Braves, coupled with a loss by the Tampa Bay Rays, have given the Phillies a 2.5-game lead over the Rays, with two games remaining.

The Phillies could clinch the best record today if the Yankees lose half of their doubleheader with the Red Sox, or if the Phils pull off one more win versus the Braves.

In a finishing stretch for the ages, the Phillies have literally gone where no Phil has gone before and they look to continue that trend.

This postseason will consist of a mountain of franchise firsts that the 2010 Phillies look to accomplish, including:

  1. Be the first team to win three NLCS in franchise history, and the first in NL history.
  2. Be the first team in franchise history to make three consecutive World Series appearances.
  3. Be the first team in franchise history to win two out of three World Series.

The last time they ended their season with the best record in the National League was in 1977.

The Phils await their opponent in the first Divisional Series of the playoffs. As it sits now, they'd face the Cincinnati Reds, who have already clinched their place as well.

If the San Diego Padres could catch the Braves in the wild card race, the Phils would face them in the NLDS.

As powerful as this team is, and experienced as they have become, they face more unmarked territory.

With the summer heat being pushed south, a band of rain passing through the east coast ushered in the crisp air of October...and it's that time again. 

Time to make your postseason picks. Time to set your alarm clock to the maximum volume for the morning, when your team plays the late game, and time to map out where you will follow the scores from the early games in the Division Series match-ups.  

The season, as usual, brought a lot of drama, controversy and disappointments. But there have also been a few stories of redemption. 

Dusty Baker and the Cincinnati Reds are a good example. 

The excitement of the Red's franchise and fan-base is evident.  It's the first time in 15 years they've clinched a postseason berth, a position the Phillies found themselves in in 2007. 

That fact alone makes the Cincinnati Reds America's favorite comeback story this year.

But now, with the 2010 postseason only days away, the match-ups are close to being set and it's time for each team to bring their A game. 

Let's analyze the Phillies personnel and approach:

Batting Lineup

It is possible that Phillies' skipper, Charlie Manuel, could put Jimmy Rollins back in lead-off position where he's been for some seven or eight years, or he can keep the hot bat Shane Victorino there. 

Otherwise, here's the rest:

Shane Victorino/Jimmy Rollins

Placido Polanco

Chase Utley

Ryan Howard

Jayson Werth

Raul Ibanez/Jimmy Rollins

Shane Victorino/Jimmy Rollins/Raul Ibanez

Carlos Ruiz

Ruiz has had a phenomenal year, increasing his statistics in almost every category tremendously, making an already dangerous bunch more lethal.

It's no secret that due to injuries the Phillies batting numbers this season have cooled down. 

Their 21-6 September proved that when everyone is healthy they are still every bit as powerful as they have ever been.

Pitching Rotation:

The Phils announced a pretty vicious pitching rotation for the Reds series on Friday night. 

Game One on Oct. 6: Roy Halladay.

Game Two on Oct. 8: Roy Oswalt.

Game Three on Oct. 10: Cole Hamels.

Game Four, if necessary: Roy Halladay.

Game Five, if necessary: Roy Oswalt.

The three have had a combined record of 20-7 and an outstanding September record of 13-1.

Bullpen:

Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras, J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin.

If Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels give us seven solid innings, we'll see a lot of Ryan Madson in the eighth and Brad Lidge in the ninth.

Brad Lidge is crucial to the Phillies postseason success. If he can continue to have a solid year, the Phillies will be very difficult to beat.

Fielding

The Phillies don't make many mistakes in the field.

They have arguably the best set of infield men in the MLB. Ryan Howard accounts for most of the errors committed in the infield. 

Otherwise, don't expect to see too many mistakes from the Phillies this postseason.

Keys to winning the series

The Reds have a very potent lineup, so the first key is to keep H2O (Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt) on the field as long as possible. 

The other key is continuing their timely hitting. 

There needs to be at least one game in which the Phillies unleash their bats. If not, the Reds just may.

If Carlos Ruiz keeps his excellent season going, he will be another key to outlasting the Reds as a 1-8 threat always wears on starting pitchers. 

Prediction

My prediction is that this series goes, at the most, four games. The Reds may take game three at Great American Ball Park, against Cole Hamels who Stamp predicts will go up against, Travis Wood. 

As a Reds columnist, Matt Stamp reminds us:

"..as some of you may recall, Wood was three outs away from pitching a perfect game in Philly. Wood finished that game (which the Reds lost 1-0 in 11 innings) pitching nine innings of one-hit ball with eight strikeouts."

So, timely hitting will have to do the trick. 

The Phillies will ultimately prevail because of the Red's lack of experience. 

For more writing from Vincent Heck, visit: www.vincentheckwriting.com

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