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Dead red: Phillies vs. Reds series preview

The Reds should provide a break from the murderer’s row of starting pitchers they’ve faced

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds
This has not been Joey Votto’s finest season
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

We were warned that the Phillies were due to face a gauntlet of excellent starting pitching last week. They had to go against Cy Young Award winners Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, a potential future Cy Young winner in Sandy Alcantara, and two other good starters in Chris Bassitt and Edward Cabrera. Oh, and they’d have to do without Bryce Harper and (for the last three games at least) Kyle Schwarber.

Unsurprisingly, the Phillies did not score a lot of runs over the past few days.

The good news - in addition to the good news that for the most part their own starting pitching has been almost as good - is that they’ll now face the Cincinnati Reds. Unlike the Mets, the Reds do not appear destined for the postseason, and it isn’t a stretch to say that the Cincinnati pitching staff is a bit lower in quality.

Cincinnati Reds

Record: 45-68 (Fourth place in National League Central, 17.5 games back)

The last time they met

The Reds visited Philadelphia in August 2021 and took two out of three. Oddly, the Phillies lost the games started by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, and won the game started by Matt Moore. This series featured the one and only appearance in a Phillies uniform by pitcher David Paulino, who gave up two runs in two innings.

What’s the deal with the Reds?

The Reds are having a bad season, and the only thing keeping them out of last place is that the Pirates are just a little bit worse. They’re not a good hitting team (11th in the NL in runs scored), and they don’t pitch very well either (14th in team ERA). Keep in mind that the poor ERA was achieved with starting pitchers Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo for most of the season. Those two were traded last month, so you can imagine the state of their pitching now.

So then, who will be starting for the Reds in this series?

The opener will be started by a guy you’ve heard of: Mike Minor. You might wonder why a team clearly in a rebuild wouldn’t also trade a veteran like Minor at the deadline. The lack of movement is probably simply because nobody wanted him. Minor made the All-Star team in 2019, but the two seasons that followed saw his ERA balloon to over 5.00, and this season he’s checking in with an ugly 6.24 mark.

The second game will go to T.J. Zeuch, who is firmly establishing himself as a Quad-A pitcher. He’s bounced between the minors and majors the past four seasons, and in his one start in 2022, he was rocked for six runs in four innings.

Rookie Nick Lodolo will start the finale. Lodolo is having a decent season, although longevity hasn’t been his forte. He hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning in his past two starts, and he has yet to record an out in the seventh inning of any of his starts.

Maybe that’s okay?

If a team has a good bullpen, shorter outings from their starting pitchers isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, the Reds do not appear to have a good bullpen. Reds relievers have the fewest wins above replacement in the NL, and the team relief ERA is the highest in all of baseball.

Decline phase

After Joey Votto recorded a .938 OPS in his age-37 2021 season, many people claimed that he was good enough to buck the aging curve. But it appears that Father Time will remain undefeated, as Votto is having a poor season in 2022. His batting average is down to .210, and Baseball Reference has him worth zero runs above replacement.

Of course, when you stick around for as long as Votto has, you start to accumulate records.



Last series’ answer: Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Aaron Nola all have ten strikeout performances at Citi field. Jabbanatic 44 was correct.

This series’ question: In the 2010 NLDS between the Phillies and Reds, there was only one home run hit by a Phillie. Who hit it?

Trap series?

The Reds aren’t an imposing opponent, but with this series falling in between two matchups against the Mets, there’s the possibility that the Phillies might be looking past these games. We’ve seen a few other series this year (Cubs and Rangers come to mind) where the Phillies haven’t seemed totally ready to play. If the Phillies want to end their playoff drought, they can’t afford for that to happen again.

Closing thought

Those aforementioned hiccups aside, the Phillies have shown an ability to beat bad teams recently, and the Reds are certainly a bad team. There is the possibility that the Phillies’ lineup is a bit shell-shocked from facing so many good pitchers recently, but I would think a couple of innings against Mike Minor would be enough to snap them out of that.