NLDS Preview: Reds vs. Phillies

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Here at HardballTalk we pride ourselves on writing dozens of posts a
day obsessing on every single little thing possible. We’re told,
however, that some of you have lives and thus not all of you are able to
read dozens of posts a day obsessing on every single little thing
possible.  That’s a shame, but for that reason, we’ve put together a few
previews covering the broad strokes of each of the four Division Series
matchups, which will pop up between now and first pitch on Wednesday
afternoon. Let’s begin, shall we?

The Matchup: Cincinnati Reds (91-71) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (97-65)

How’ve they been doing?
The Phillies were phenomenal in the season’s last month, winning 23 of their last 30.  The Reds were below .500 over that time, losing a lot more games to not-so-great teams than they should have.

Haven’t I seen you before?
The Phillies won the season series 5-2. The Reds beat the Phillies 3-0 in the 1976 NLCS. With the exception of Jamie Moyer, however, the rosters have turned over so that shouldn’t have much bearing here.

Who’s pitching?
The Phillies are — surprise surprise — going to trot out fellas by the name of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels. The Reds counter with Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto.  You’d think that Travis Wood — a lefty who took a perfecto into the ninth inning against the Phillies back in July — would get a look-see, but I guess not. To be fair, though, that was a very different Phillies team back in July than the one playing now, and Wood has had really only one spiffy start in the past couple of months.

The storyline which doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things
but which TBS will nonetheless beat to death

I won’t say it doesn’t matter, because it does, but the “Phillies are vulnerable to lefties” thing has less traction this year than in years past. As Ken Rosenthal noted over at FOX, Chase Utley actually did better against lefties this year than he did against righties and Ryan Howard’s splits are less extreme than they have been historically. Granted, Howard’s splits were narrowed due to a bigger dropoff against righties than an improvement against lefties, but he has done better.  I’m still looking forward to seeing Aroldis Chapman brought in to face Utley and Howard, but it won’t necessarily be the same dynamic we’re used to seeing when the Phillies face a lefty late.

Oh, and the storyline we’re going to get absolutely sick of is the “Big Three” or “H20” or whatever it is we’re calling Halladay-Hamels-Oswalt these days. But just because we’re sick of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. It’s basically everything in this series, I’m afraid.

The storyline which actually does matter but about which TBS won’t spend a lot of time
talking

Not saying it matters too much, but I would not be at all surprised if there is a big focus on “the battle-hardened Phillies” vs. the “wet-behind-the-ears” Reds.  Such a thing is tempting to beat into the ground, but if TBS does this, they’ll have to ignore the fact that The Reds do have playoff experience. Ramon Hernandez, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Orlando Cabrera, Bronson Arroyo, Jonny Gomes and Arthur Rhodes have all played in October. And, oh yeah, Dusty Baker managed a team to within one win of a World Series title himself.  These guys won’t be deer in the headlights. Roy Halladay will be the most important guy on the field in Game 1, and he’s never played in the postseason.

What’s gonna go down?
The phrase “anything can happen in a short series” is true because, yeah, anything can happen in a short series.  And just ask Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz how often being “The Big Three” ended up not mattering in the end.  But really, the Reds are outgunned here, and there’s no way to get around that fact. Sure, I can envision a scenario in which Halladay has a bad start for some reason, Manuel has to go to the bullpen early and everything gets thrown off kilter. But I kinda doubt it. 

I’ll call it the Phillies in 4 simply because it seems rude to predict a sweep, but let’s just say that I will be none too surprised if a sweep goes down.  Too many arms on the Phillies. Too many good bats. Too many of the Reds gaudy team-offensive numbers were compiled against the NL Central.  I don’t think this will be particularly close.

The Mets are among six teams that help Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 19:  A detailed view of the blackboard with theoretical physics equations in chalk by Alberto Ramos, Theoretical Physics Fellow and visitor, Antonio Gonzalez-Arroyo from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (both not in frame) at The European Organization for Nuclear Research commonly know as CERN on April 19, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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In a special for USA TODAY Sports, Mike Vorkunov details how six teams — the Mets in particular — provide an education program that helps their Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas. It seems like an obvious win-win: smarter players make smarter decisions, making them more likely to achieve their potential as athletes. That, of course, requires spending money, which is why only six teams make the investment. For the players, if baseball doesn’t work out, they are better able to support themselves in other ways.

Vorkunov lists the Pirates, Tigers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Mariners as the other teams who provide an education program for their Dominican prospects. We learned earlier this month that the Phillies were also investing in making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “few teams” supply their minor league players with healthy food options.

Juan Henderson, the head of the Mets’ Dominican academy, said, “We see the benefit of it. I gotta tell you, we’re working with a new generation of baseball players. You see in the past that players just carry a bat and a glove and a helmet on the baseball field and in the academy. Those years, I think, are going to be pretty much over. Now they also do that, but they also carry books, they also carry an iPad, they also carry a laptop.”

Kudos to the six teams for making a great decision and here’s hoping the other 24 teams follow suit.

Video: Albert Pujols hits 569th career home run, tying Rafael Palmeiro

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 22:  Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 22, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Angels first baseman Albert Pujols cranked out a two-run home run in the third inning against Rangers starter Derek Holland, breaking a scoreless tie. It’s the ninth homer of the season for Pujols and the 569th of his career, putting him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard.

Harmon Killebrew is Pujols’ next target at 573, followed by Mark McGwire at 583 and Frank Robinson at 586.

Pujols hadn’t homered since May 13. He entered Monday night hitting a mediocre .228/.309/.395 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 188 plate appearances.

Alex Gordon to miss three to four weeks with a fractured scaphoid bone

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 22:  Alex Gordon #4 and Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals collide going for a foul ball against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on May 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Royals 3-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Monday has unfortunately been a day of injury news. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is the latest to hit the 15-day disabled list, as he has been diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. The club has recalled infielder Cheslor Cuthbert from Triple-A Omaha.

Gordon suffered the injury colliding with third baseman Mike Moustakas attempting to catch a fly ball on Sunday afternoon. He is expected to miss three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports.

Gordon was having a tough 2016 campaign and the injury only makes it worse. He’s hitting .211/.319/.331 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 166 plate appearances on the year.

The Royals will likely use Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando in left field in Gordon’s absence.

Orioles trade reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17:  Brian Matusz #17 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning on May 17, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Orioles announced on Monday night that the club has traded reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves in exchange for minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. The Braves are also receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick (76th overall) in the 2016 draft.

Matusz, 29, made his season debut on April 23 after battling a back injury since early March. It’s been a struggle, as the lefty has yielded eight runs on 11 hits and seven walks with just one strikeout in six innings. He is earning $3.9 million and can become a free agent after the season.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are expected to designate Matusz for assignment. Essentially, the Braves bought the draft pick for Matusz’s remaining salary of $3 million of $3.9 million total.

Barker, 23, has been pitching at Double-A Mississippi after getting a taste of Triple-A last year. So far this season, the right-hander has a 2.00 ERA with a 40/12 K/BB ratio in 45 innings spanning eight starts and a relief appearance.

Belicek, a 23-year-old left-hander, has spent most of the year with Single-A Rome, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 29/1 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings over 11 relief appearances.