Phillies Series Preview: Cincinnati Reds

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Apr 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; The Philadelphia Phillies take the field to begin a game against the Cleveland Indians at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; The Philadelphia Phillies take the field to begin a game against the Cleveland Indians at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Philadelphia Phillies will host a weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies return to the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park after a 10-game road trip over the last 11 days that somehow has seemed like an eternity. While on the road, the club managed to forge a 5-5 record after beginning their trip losing four of the first five games. Now it’s plenty of home cookin’, as the Phils will be at home in South Philly for 19 of the next 25 games.

This season was not supposed to go well for the Phillies, and it certainly did not begin well at all. Over the first three games of 2016, the Phils were swept by the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park during a series in which the bullpen repeatedly came up small.

Flash forward nearly six weeks, and the Phillies have gone 20-12 since that first series. They sit in third place in the NL East, just 1.5 games behind both the New York Mets and Washington Nationals, against whom the club has gone a combined 6-6 on the season.

Meanwhile the Reds have struggled to an 11-20 record since that opening series. The Reds are buried in fourth place in the NL Central race. Not only are they 11.5 games behind the mighty Chicago Cubs at the top, but they trail both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Saint Louis Cardinals by 4.5 games, and are 5.5 back of the Phils for the 2nd NL Wildcard playoff berth.

The thing that has gone most right for the Phils over these last six weeks has gone all wrong for the Reds, namely the pitching. Cincy manager Bryan Price has already used nine different starting pitchers for multiple outings. Overall, the Reds staff is allowing more than four walks and nine hits per every nine innings of work.

The Reds do have some offensive production, as the Phils found out during that opening series sweep. Right fielder Jay Bruce is tied for the club lead with six homers, leads the club with 23 RBI and is one of five Cincy players with at least 5 home runs.

One of those other longball threats is 1st baseman Joey Votto, who has five. His 20 RBI is second on the club to Bruce. The others with six homers are 2nd baseman Brandon Phillips, 3rd baseman Eugenio Suarez, and left fielder Adam Duvall.

Shortstop Zack Cozart has four homers and is carrying a .33o batting average. Center fielder Billy Hamilton has seven steals, and may be the fastest player in the game today.

As you can see, the Reds don’t lack for a potential offensive attack. They are 7th in the National League in both homers and doubles, and 6th in Triples. However, they are also just 24th in baseball in batting average and 29th in on-base percentage, highlighting that the Reds hitters are frequently feast or famine.

The Reds bullpen has been a particular mess. Left-hander Tony Cingrani is currently serving as the closer, but Price will use any number of arms in that role based on the circumstances. Ross Ohlendorf has actually finished the most games, and has a nice 20/4 K:BB ratio over 16.2 innings, by far their most effective reliever.

This is a team very much like the Braves club against whom the Phillies just struggled to win two out of three games. Despite the disparity in their records and the Phillies spirited play, the talent discrepancy in the two lineups is basically non-existent. It is on the mound where the Phillies have the advantage.

This is yet another series that presents an opportunity for this Phils team still trying to prove to its many doubters that it can remain a contender deep into the season. Against a lesser opponent coming to town having lost three of their last four games, the Phillies need to keep winning these types of series.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

FRIDAY: Jeremy Hellickson (2-2, 4.91 ERA) vs Brandon Finnegan (1-1, 4.15 ERA): Finnegan is a 23-year old lefty who was the Kansas City Royals 1st round pick at 17th overall in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft. He was dealt to Cincy along with John Lamb and the now the Reds top pitching prospect, Cody Reed, in the Johnny Cueto deal with the Royals just prior to last year’s trade deadline. Finnegan has allowed just 76 hits over his first career 94 big league innings, and is a key piece of the Reds future. He has allowed more than three earned runs just once all season thus far. Not a big strikeout pitcher, Finnegan will pitch to contact, and the Phils need to make some. Back on April 6th in Cincy, Finnegan struck out nine Phillies and registered his first big league hit. This should be an opportunity for Phils newcomer Tommy Joseph to get a start vs a lefty. Hellickson has only been able to go 5.1 innings in each of his last two starts at right around the 100 pitch mark. The up-and-down hurler needs to throw more strikes.

SATURDAY: Aaron Nola (2-2, 3.13 ERA) vs Tim Adleman (1-0 2.45 ERA): Adleman is a  28-year old rookie righty making just his 3rd career big league start. He has allowed just seven hits over 11 innings in his first two, and is coming off his first career win in beating the Milwaukee Brewers on May 6th with two extra days of rest. A 24th round selection of the Baltimore Orioles back in 2010 out of Georgetown University, Adleman spent nearly four years pitching out of the bullpen in the minors before the Reds converted him back to starting last season. He responded well, going 9-10 with a 2.64 ERA over 26 starts. He allowed just 134 hits in 150 innings, continued to pitch well this season at AAA Louisville, and earned his promotion when the Reds staff hit injury troubles. Nola has five Quality Starts over his seven outings, including four straight.

SUNDAY: Adam Morgan (1-0, 3.94 ERA) vs Dan Straily (1-1, 3.47 ERA): Straily is a 27-year old lefty who is already in his 5th different MLB organization and his 5th season in the big leagues. He has gone 14-14 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.291 WHIP, making 50 starts among 60 appearances over which he has allowed 261 hits in 292.2 innings with a 247/122 K:BB ratio. He has been really tough on lefty, allowing just a .094 batting average against and a .226 slugging percentage to left hitters this season. Another opportunity for the rookie Joseph to get some time. Morgan will be making his fourth big league start of the season, and comes off a brilliant effort on Tuesday night in Atlanta where he allowed four hits over seven innings, earning his first victory of the year.

KEYS TO PHILLIES VICTORY

KEEP REDS HITTERS IN THE PARK: as everyone knows, Citizens Bank Park can play well for hitters, especially home run hitters. One of the few things that the Reds do well is hit the long ball. They have a handful of players who are legitimate home run threats. Phillies pitching has to keep the ball in the yard. Of course it would also help for them to generally keep runners off base, mitigating the damage should a few balls go jumping out of the yard this weekend.

TOMMY BOY: fans have been clamoring for Joseph to replace Ruf on the Phillies roster for weeks. Well, it is happening, and the timing is perfect with Cincy starting a pair of lefties this weekend. Joseph should get those two starts at 1st base, and it would be nice if he produced at least a couple of times. The fans would certainly be happy, that’s for sure.

RUN, ODUBEL, RUN: when Odubel Herrera gets on base and is running, the Phillies offense takes on a new dimension. Herrera has been a ball of energy ever since breaking into the starting lineup unexpectedly last spring. This year, the center fielder may push for an NL All-Star berth. Talk of players making the All-Star Team and the team continuing to contend may seem premature to outsiders. But here in Philly, where we have struggled with awful baseball for much of the last three years, we are happy to jump the gun a bit.

BROADCAST SCHEDULE

Friday, May 13thvs. Cincinnati Reds7:05 PM EDTCSN TV94 WIP FM radio
Saturday, May 14thvs. Cincinnati Reds7:05 PM EDTCSN TV94 WIP FM radio
Sunday, May 15thvs. Cincinnati Reds1:35 PM EDTCSN TV94 WIP FM radio

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE forecast for Citizens Bank Park in South Philly

Tonight

A chance of showers, mainly before 8pm. Mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming clear, with a low around 56. West wind around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Saturday

A slight chance of showers before 2pm, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms between 2pm and 5pm, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 5pm. Increasing clouds, with a high near 73. Light southwest wind increasing to 10 to 15 mph in the morning. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Saturday Night

Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm before 8pm, then a chance of showers between 8pm and 2am. Cloudy, then gradually becoming partly cloudy, with a low around 47. West wind around 14 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Sunday

Mostly sunny, with a high near 61. Breezy, with a west wind 16 to 22 mph, with gusts as high as 33 mph.


INJURIES / DISABLED LISTS

Cincinnati Reds

DatePlayerStatus
5/3Jon Moscot, PLeft shoulder inflammation (on 15-day DL)
4/28Devin Mesoraco, CTorn labrum, left shoulder (on 60-day DL)
4/26Raisel Iglesias, PRight shoulder impingement (on 15-day DL)
3/31Kyle Skipworth, CRecovery from ankle surgery (on 60-day DL)
3/27Yorman Rodríguez, RFHamstring strain (on 15-day DL)
3/25Homer Bailey, PRecovery from right elbow surgery (on 15-day DL)
3/25Anthony DeSclafani, PStrained oblique (on 15-day DL)
3/25Michael Lorenzen, PSprained right UCL (on 60-day DL)

Philadelphia Phillies

DatePlayerStatus
4/29Dalier Hinojosa, PRight hand contusion (on 15-day DL)
4/24Charlie Morton, PTorn left hamstring – out for season (on 15-day DL)
4/2Aaron Altherr, LFTorn tendon in left wrist (on 60-day DL)
4/2Matt Harrison, PLower back inflammation (on 60-day DL)
4/2Mario Hollands, PRecovery from left elbow surgery (on 60-day DL)
3/25Cody Asche, LFStrained right oblique (on 15-day DL)
3/25Michael Mariot, PRight ankle sprain (on 15-day DL)

Next: Phillies Promote Tommy Joseph

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