A Battle of Two Teams

For those of you who know me, you know that I follow 2 baseball teams very closely.  Several of you have been asking who & how I’ll be rooting for in this week’s Reds v Phillies 4 game series. So, here is my long answer.

When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, my introduction to the game of baseball was through the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies are ingrained in my brain, nearly from birth, as the very definition of baseball. Carlton, Maddox, Luzinski and all the rest, my team. My heroes. During that time in NJ, my father would often talk about the Cincinnati Reds, as he grew up in Dayton, Ohio. When the Reds and Phillies played, or if there happened to be a national broadcast of the Reds, it would turn into a history lesson. So there was always an affinity for the Reds in my home.

In 1983, my family moved from Cherry Hill, NJ to Dayton, Ohio. A homecoming for my father. There was cable back then, but not like today. There was no internet or MLB.TV and thus, no way to follow my beloved Phillies. Long story short, the Reds were becoming my defacto team, if for no other reason than geography. Around 2002, my fervor for baseball heated up, moreso than ever really. Within a couple of years, there’s MLB.TV, and suddenly, I can see my Phillies again! Not that I recognized them much. But I could listen to Harry Kalas (the best announcer that ever was, period) again!  Btw, I can do the best Harry Kalas you’ve ever heard, but that’s another story. So I found myself rooting for 2 teams as some put it, but in reality my love for baseball was simply doubling.

Back to the present: for whom, and how shall I be rooting during this 4 game Reds v Phillies series? Here’s how. The Phillies have had an abysmal season. Offense has been slim, with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard out for the predominance of the first half of the season. Roy Halladay has been injured and not performed well. Though, in is last 2 starts, one can see a glimpse of the elite pitcher he has been and can still be. Cliff Lee was winless for almost the first 4 months of the season, and has since collected only 2 wins on the season. Additionally, if he does not garner a win in a home start by Sept. 5, he will have gone a whole year with NO WINS AT HOME. This is a very odd year for Cliff Lee, indeed. Vance Worley, aka “Vanimal”, performed well last season and had a strong start to this season, but his last few outings have been losses, each of them containing at least one “blow up” inning that has resulted lately in Worley not pitching deep into games. Cole Hamels, on the other hand, is red-hot. He had a strong start to the season, and with the exception of his first 2 starts after his big contract signing, he has been exceptional, with a 20+ inning scoreless streak as well. He also pitches deep into (if not complete) games. Which brings us to the Phillies’ bullpen. Papalbon, though he has not had nearly as many save opportunities as the team would like, has performed solidly. But a big reason he’s had so few save opp’s is because of the inability of the rest of the bullpen to get the job done. A very weak link right now for the Phils.

The Reds, conversely, have performed solidly throughout the season. They have offense – Ludwick, Frazier, Bruce, Cozart, Hannigan, Rolen, and even some from Stubbs since his return from the DL. They have an amazing record over the last month plus with they’re All-Star 1st baseman, Joey Votto, has been on the DL. They have pitching – Cueto and Latos are killing it. Arroyo has been fairly solid, and some good recent outings by Leake. Bailey has struggled slightly lately, but has come into his own as a force on the Reds starting rotation. The bullpen has been amazing.And, of course, Chapman is simply lights out. An 8 inning game if the Reds have the lead. We’re talking a Mariano Rivera-class closer here. Yes, I said it. That’s what I believe, time will tell if (that!) I’m right.

So, who am I rooting for? Well, short answer, both teams. I expect the series to go 2-2. Here’s where the conflict starts: I fully expect Hamels to win his outing, but, I also fully expect Cueto to win his. That’s the game, game 4 in the series, that I can’t quite predict. I do know it’s going to be the best game of the series. I think Halladay has a shot at winning his outing, but I would not be at all surprised if he doesn’t. And Cliff Lee’s previously mentioned drought of wins at home makes his winning unlikely. And Worley could go either way. Bottom line, the Phills will likely win Hamels outing, and possibly Halladay or Lee, but the Phills winning both would surprise me. I only wish Mat Latos was pitching during the series! Slightly disappointing.

So, if there’s a sweep, how will I fell about it? Well, I don’t think for a minute that the Reds will be swept, not the way they’re going. And I don’t see the Phills getting swept, because I expect one of their star starters to win one for them. The Phills have had an incredible run for the last few seasons, winning it all in 2008, and appearing again in the WS again in 2009. The Reds haven’t had a championship since 1990, and back in 2010 their appearance was cut short by who else, but the Phillies. Especially that notable game that Halladay pitched. ‘Nuff said. But it does seem that both teams will have something to prove this series. The Reds will want some payback for the 2010 post-season, and they are hot enough to get it, as well as solidify their road to the post-sean this year. The Phillies aren’t out of the race mathematically (yet!) so they would love to take or sweep this series to keep them in the running. This is going to be a great 4 game series. Go, teams, go!

Dig it! What do you think??

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