The Philadelphia Phillies have two consecutive pennants, a World Series win two years ago, a great assembly of regulars, a trio of aces, and a resurgent closer. No chance for the NL Central Champions from Cincinnati. A sweep is in the works. The Reds will be only so much roadkill, on the way to another Phillies pennant.
I cannot make a solid case for an upset. I only hope for one as a fan. I hope Dusty Baker and pitching coach Bryan Price have a creative approach to make up for the mismatch in the starting rotation. If I were in the dugout, beside the phone to the bullpen, I would act on the following strategy. Edison Volquez, still recovering from Tommy John surgery, would be on a short, short leash. At the first sign of trouble, the rookie lefty Travis Wood, who nearly no-hit the Phils in July, would enter the game, as early as the third or fourth inning. If Wood buckled under the pressure, the back end of the Reds bullpen, like Sam LeCure, Logan Ondrusek, or Jordan Smith, could mop up, and save the better arms for later in the short series. Homer Bailey is an option if Bronson Arroyo falters in Game Two. The key to this plan is switching up from a hard thrower to one who uses breaking stuff, and vice versa.
Four Reds relievers hold the key to post-season success. Set-up man Nick Masset pitched well after the All-Star break, nearly matching his unexpected 2009 success. Closer Coco Cordero must pitch with command, and cut down on the walks, or else he could have a Brad Lidge-like post-season flame out. Veteran lefty set-up man Arthur Rhodes went several weeks earlier in the season without allowing an earned run, but has struggled down the stretch with a sore foot. The true wild card for the NL Central champs is Aroldis Chapman. The intriguing matchup of the playoff will be late inning matchups against Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Overpowering those two sluggers is unlikely, but it makes for a dramatic, memorable confrontation.