The Cincinnati Reds limp back to town after a 1-5 road trip to play host to the Philadelphia Phillies for the next three nights. Two of the matchups will get national exposure on ESPN (Monday) and ESPN2 (Wednesday.)

After starting the season 2-5, the Phillies have beat up on the Mets and Marlins to win 4 of their last 5 games. Their starting pitchers not names Cliff Lee had gotten roughed up their first time and a half through the rotation, but the Phillies pitching staff has held opponents to three runs or less in each of their last 5 games.

2013 W-L exW-L GB RS RA
Reds 5-7 7-5 2 65 59
Phillies 6-6 5-7 5 48 58

PHILADELPHIA’S OFFSEASON MOVES

Philadelphia went into the offseason needing to replace their biggest losses from the prior year’s opening day roster: centerfielder (Shane Victorino) and 3rd base (Placido Polanco and Ty Wigginton.) The front office addressed both gaps via trades, acquiring centerfielder Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins and third baseman Michael Young from the Texas Rangers.

Revere is a speedy, good glove/light bat centerfielder. Charlie Manuel has done what most managers do, sticking him and his low-.300 on-base percentage into the leadoff spot.

Michael Young was a perennial all-star until posting the worst offensive season of his career last year. Young is working to put last season behind him and has gotten off to a hot start with his new team.

The trades did cost the Phillies a good major league starting pitcher in Vance Worley. They replaced the young pitcher with Washington Nationals AAAA starting pitcher, John Lannan.

The Phillies also went into the offseason in need of bullpen arms. On the cheap end, they signed middle reliever Chad Durbin to a one year, $1.1M contract. On the costlier end, they signed Mike Adams to a 2-year/$12M Broxton-type contract to setup closer Jonathan Papelbon.

PROBABLE BATTING LINEUP

Player Bats Pos Age PA AVG OBP SLG BABIP SB/CS
Ben Revere (L) CF 25 55 0.240 0.296 0.240 0.293 5/2
Jimmy Rollins (S) SS 34 50 0.261 0.320 0.435 0.314 3/0
Chase Utley (L) 2B 34 52 0.277 0.327 0.532 0.275 3/0
Ryan Howard (L) 1B 33 51 0.277 0.314 0.426 0.353 0/0
Michael Young (R) 3B 36 47 0.357 0.426 0.524 0.400 0/0
Domonic Brown (L) LF 25 48 0.244 0.292 0.400 0.265 0/0
John Mayberry (R) RF 29 26 0.286 0.423 0.571 0.385 0/1
Erik Kratz (R) C 33 39 0.184 0.179 0.316 0.207 0/0

The Phillies are banking on a number of bounce-back seasons from players this year. After missing 185 games the last three seasons, Chase Utley’s return to good health is key to the Phillies. He’s looked healthy and is hitting well so far in the first two weeks of 2013. Cleanup hitter Ryan Howard only appeared in 71 games last year and hasn’t had an OPS over .900 since 2009.

Michael Young didn’t miss any time with injury, but is coming off one of his worst offensive seasons of his career. Certainly, it was his worst in over a decade. While he’s off to a .950 OPS hot start with his new team, his walk percentage (10.6%, almost double his usual rate) and his BABIP (.400) suggest that he’s in for a drop in production soon. The Phillies just hope that it is not a drop all the way back to his 2012 offense.

Charlie Manuel is giving the top of his lineup the sign to steal with Revere, Rollins, and Utley combining for 11 steals.

Former Reds outfielder Laynce Nix (.273/.333/.545) has appeared in all but one game as a pinch hitter or platoon partner with John Mayberry. With all the Reds right handed starting pitchers, he’s also likely to get a start or two in this series.

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS

  • Mon 7:10pm on ESPN: LHP Cliff Lee (2-0, 1.08 ERA, 2.91 xFIP, 0.60 WHIP)  vs. RHP Bronson Arroyo (1-1, 5.25 ERA, 3.97 xFIP, 1.25 WHIP)
  • Tues 7:10pm: RHP Kyle Kendrick (1-1, 5.40 ERA, 3.92 xFIP, 1.714 WHIP)  vs. RHP Homer Bailey (1-1, 5.73 ERA, 4.96 xFIP, 1.55 WHIP)
  • Wed 7:10pm on ESPN2: LHP John Lannan (0-0, 2.77 ERA, 3.26 xFIP, 0.692 WHIP)  vs. RHP Mike Leake (0-0, 6.75 ERA, 5.26 xFIP, 1.83 WHIP)

While the first night’s matchup doesn’t appear to favor the Reds on paper, they are still missing two of Philadelphia’s top pitchers in this series. Arguably their best starting pitcher, Cliff Lee is #3 in the Phillies rotation. Bronson Arroyo will need to have his good stuff tonight.

Kyle Kendrick has been at the major league level with the organization for parts of 6 seasons and has pitched as a swingman the past two years. The organization is hoping that Kendrick can finally stick in the rotation and take his turn every 5th game all season long.

The matchup of #5 starters are the types of games that should provide a big advantage to the Reds this year. Jon Lannan is a classic innings eater, #5/6 type starter. After a couple of seasons in the majors, he spent most of last season with the Washington Nationals AAA farm team. With Leake, the Reds hope that he develops into something more than a #5 starter.

BULLPEN
Jonathan Papelbon begins his second year with the Phillies and has been one of the most dominate closers in baseball the past 7 seasons. Former Reds prospect Jeremy Horst and newly acquired Mike Adams set him up from the left and right side, respectively. Left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo has yet to allow a run this season in 5 innings.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
Phildelphia was a .500 club last year, and they are likely to finish near .500 this year. Many of the names on the backs of these Phillies jerseys may be the same names that beat the Reds in the 2010 playoffs, but this is an aging team that will be looking up in the standings at Washington and Atlanta all year long.