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Ranger vs. Scooter: Phillies vs. Reds Series Preview

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The Phillies head to Cincinnati to take on the last place Reds

MLB: All Star Game Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

After three games against a first place team, the Phillies will now get four games against a last place team when they travel to Cincinnati to take on the Reds.

The Last Time They Met

Early in the season, the Phillies hosted Cincy for three games and swept the old Red Legs right out of town. Believe it or not, the biggest bat of the series belonged to Scott Kingery who homered in each of the first two games and had a game-winning sacrifice fly in the finale.

Since Then?

The Reds dug a huge hole for themselves early in the season, going 7-22 in March and April. They heated up a bit in June, reeling off a seven-game winning streak. That burst was too little, too late as they’re still in last place, six games behind their closest competitor in the National League Central.

Phillies Pitching vs. Reds Offense

Despite their last place status, the Reds are capable of scoring some runs. Eugenio Suarez has emerged as a star at third base, while second baseman Scooter Gennett continues to establish himself as one of the best second basemen in baseball. This leads to an important question: Should a grown man continue to go by the nickname of Scooter?

According to this story, Gennett decided he was going to call himself Scooter in tribute to his favorite character on the show Muppet Babies. It seems like he should have outgrown the nickname at some point, as most teenagers would get mercilessly teased for naming themselves after a Muppet Babies. The moral of the story is: If you’re good at sports, you can get away with a lot of things that other kids can’t.

Premiere Of Disney’s ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ - Arrivals
And Scooter (second from left) is like the lamest of the Muppets!
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

This reminds me that in little league, I had a teammate named Scott, and sometimes we would call him Scooter. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Scott, but I’m willing to bet that he doesn’t still address himself as Scooter. #CoolStoryBro

Anyway, the first pitcher to face Scooter and company is rookie Ranger Suarez. Suarez is a middling prospect who is getting a spot start due to the doubleheader this week. I can almost guarantee that if he pitches well, Phillies fans will push for him to stick around if for no other reason than he has a cool first name. (At least I assume that’s his real first name. I’m going to feel like a real jerk if his name is real name is something like Edgar and he decided to call himself Ranger because he was a fan of environmentally conscious raccoon Ranger Rick.)

Next up in the rotation is Nick Pivetta, who has struggled recently. There have been some rumblings that the Phillies might be interested in upgrading their rotation via trade, and it seems likely that if that were to happen, Pivetta would be the odd man out. Perhaps if he had a cooler first name, fans would cut him some more slack.

Game three will be pitched by Vince Velasquez, who is on a bit of a roll. He hasn’t allowed a run in either of his last two starts, and he even chipped in a scoreless inning of relief in Tuesday night’s extra inning game.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Philadelphia Phillies
Vince Velasquez has been on a roll lately
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The finale goes to Zach Eflin who didn’t pitch well his last time out. Hopefully that was only due to some rustiness, since it was his first appearance in 14 days due to a blister and the All-Star break. Eflin faced the Reds once in his career, and was lit up for seven runs in five innings.

In surprising news, the Phillies’ bullpen has actually been good recently. They have the lowest reliever ERA in baseball in the month of July. The emergence of Victor Arano and Austin Davis as reliable options has been a boost.

Reds Pitching vs. Phillies Offense

Remember when people were worried about Rhys Hoskins participating in the All-Star Home Run Derby because it might mess up his swing? I’m pretty sure the “Home Run Derby is bad for hitters” myth is almost entirely due to Bobby Abreu’s reduced home run numbers in the second half of 2005. Hopefully, Hoskins’ second half production can kill that myth for good. He’s already hit four homers since the break with a lofty .875 slugging percentage.

When Hoskins gets on rolls like that, the Phillies’ offense tends to thrive, and the team has averaged over six runs per game since the break. The Reds will likely have a tough time slowing them down with the unimpressive array of starting pitchers they have lined up in this series.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Philadelphia Phillies
The Home Run Derby did not hurt Rhys Hoskins’ swing
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

First up is 23-year-old Tyler Mahle who was having a solid season until recently. He’s been rocked for eleven runs over his last two starts, so its possible that the youngster is running out of steam in his first full season. Mahle tends to walk a lot of batters which isn’t good news going against a patient lineup like the Phillies.

Friday’s starter is Anthony DeSclafani. In 2016, DeSclafani recorded a 3.28 ERA and 2.9 bWAR for the Reds. Since then, he’s been plagued by injuries, missing the entire 2017 and a large chunk of 2018. Since returning to the field, he’s been shaky, recording a 5.40 ERA and -0.2 bWAR.

Speaking of injuries, Saturday’s starter is Matt Harvey. Remember when he was the brightest young star in baseball? Due to injuries and ineffectiveness, the Mets finally gave up on him, and traded him to the Reds. The change in scenery hasn’t helped much, as he has a 4.50 ERA since the trade.

The finale will be started by Luis Castillo. Castillo had an impressive rookie campaign in 2017, but has failed to build upon that this season. He has a 5.30 ERA for the season, although he’s shown improvement in July. When he faced the Phillies in April, he allowed three runs in six innings, suffering a loss.

The Reds bullpen has been a relative strength for them. When he’s had a lead to protect, closer Raisel Iglesias has generally done so, and Jared Hughes and David Hernandez have been effective in setup roles.

Boo This Man

Remember how hilarious it was when Joey Votto trolled Phillies fans?

Personally, I think it’s hilarious that - All-Star status aside - Votto’s numbers have slipped a bit this season. Yes, he still walks as much as anyone, but his slugging percentage is way down and he’s only hit nine home runs. That’s not really what you want out of an expensive first baseman.

It’s even more hilarious that the Reds have committed to pay Votto $25 million a year over the next five seasons. The Reds are currently headed for their fourth last place season in a row, and if Votto continues to decline, that streak might not end any time soon.

Fourteen to Go

The Phillies and Reds’ rivalry dates back to 1890. Sadly, the Reds largely had the Phillies’ numbers over that time, holding a 1130-953 advantage. The nadir came in 1961 when the Reds managed to win 17 straight over the Phils. However, the Phillies have won three in a row over the Reds, so all they have to do is win the next 14 contests to equal that streak.

If this is a real goal of theirs, they might want to think about bringing back Cole Hamels, who has dominated the Reds over his career. He’s 10-1 with a 1.93 ERA against Cincinnati, and that doesn’t even this gem from the 2010 playoffs:

Prediction

Sadly, I don’t think the Phillies’ win streak against the Reds will reach 17 games. I don’t think it will even reach four games, as Suarez will falter in the opener. However, the team will recover from that setback to capture the next three games.