MLB

Phillies pitching may meet its match

Hear from the Phillies after they swept the Reds in the NLDS.
Hear from the Phillies after they swept the Reds in the NLDS.
Share This Story

Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

MORE>>
 
   
 

CINCINNATI

 No disrespect to the Braves, but I’d much rather see the Phillies face the Giants in the National League Championship Series.

Imagine the pitching matchups:

Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum.

Roy Oswalt vs. Matt Cain.

Cole Hamels vs. Jonathan Sanchez.

I'm not sure any team in either league can beat the Phillies, but I'd almost bet on a Halladay or Hamels no-hitter if the Chipper-less, Prado-less Braves were the Phillies' opponent. Heck, I might even bet on one if the Giants were.

The Reds, the top-scoring team in the NL in the regular season, posed little threat while getting swept in the Division Series, producing nearly as many errors (seven) as hits (11) and finishing with a batting line of .124/.160/.213.

The Reds' average and OBP rank as the worst in Division Series history, according to STATS LLC. Their slugging percentage ranks as the fourth worst ever in a division series, the worst since the '99 Rangers (.207).

Halladay threw a no-hitter for the Phillies in Game 1. Hamels pitched a five-hit shutout for a 2-0 victory in Game 3. Oswalt had a slight hiccup in Game 2, but the bullpen rescued him with four scoreless innings.

Frankly, I can’t imagine either the Giants or Braves posing a serious threat to the Phillies offensively. The best test probably would come from the Yankees if they survived the Rays or Rangers in the ALCS.

Indeed, the postseason barely has begun, and the Phillies’ Big Three already is drawing comparisons to some of the great rotations from the past.

Reds manager Dusty Baker, whose first major-league season as a player was in 1968, was asked the last time he saw a playoff team with three starting pitchers this dominant.

“Been a long time, probably so far back as the (1971) Baltimore Orioles maybe, when they had (Jim) Palmer and (Dave) McNally and (Mike) Cuellar, (Pat) Dobson — those guys pitched,” Baker said. “I mean, they really pitched.”

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, asked the same question, mentioned the 1995 Braves.

“I was in Cleveland (as the hitting coach),” Manuel said. “They had (Greg) Maddux, (John) Smoltz and (Tom) Glavine and (Steve) Avery, I think, was their fourth guy. That was a good startin’ staff. But this staff here, I would say it sits right in there.”

The 2005 Astros also belong in the discussion — Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens performed even better in the regular season than the Phillies’ Big Three did this year. Pettitte and Clemens, however, faded in the playoffs.

Maybe Oswalt will experience a dropoff this time. Or maybe in Game 2 he had just had an off-night. Halladay, now at 259 2/3 innings including postseason, certainly doesn’t seem to be tiring. Ditto for Hamels, who threw 106 pitches in the first eight innings Sunday night, then hit for himself against Reds left-hander Aroldis Chapman — yes, he lived to tell about it — and went back out for the ninth.

The Reds actually threatened in the final inning; Brandon Phillips led off with a single, bringing Joey Votto to the plate as the potential tying run. But Hamels got ahead 0-2, and two pitches later Votto grounded into a double play.

MLB

HE DID IT!

Derek Jeter is the first Yankee to collect 3,000 hits. See the best shots from the celebration.

No runner advanced past second against Hamels. Votto finished 1-for-10 in the series. Third baseman Scott Rolen went 1-for-11 with eight strikeouts. Center fielder Drew Stubbs was 1-for-9, shortstop Orlando Cabrera 1-for-8, left fielder Jonny Gomes 0-for-6.

The Reds clearly were not at full strength; Rolen seemed to be dealing with a shoulder issue, Cabrera re-injured his oblique and outfielder Jim Edmonds was out with an Achilles’ problem. Many of the Cincinnati players also were appearing in their first postseason. But really, how much would greater experience and better health even have mattered?

The Phillies’ pitching was so good, they swept with a batting line of .212/.301/.273. The bullpen only was needed in Game 2; closer Brad Lidge, standing in a champagne-soaked but relatively subdued clubhouse late Sunday night, joked with reporters about his lack of activity.

Actually, both Lidge and setup man Ryan Madson are rolling, too. Lidge, starting Aug. 1 and including the postseason, is 18-for-19 in save opportunities with a 0.70 ERA. Madson, in that same time frame, is averaging 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings with a 1.04 ERA. Even J.C. Romero, the struggling left-handed specialist, got two big outs in Game 2.

The bullpen won’t be overexposed, that’s for sure. This will be the Phillies’ third straight trip to the NLCS, but my how their rotation has grown.

Latest from Ken Rosenthal

 

4 errors. 3 hit batsmen. 5 unearned runs. Zero chance.

Umpire controversies marring this year's playoffs

Baseball's stuck in the stone age regarding replay.

 

In 2008, the Phils had Hamels, Joe Blanton, Jamie Moyer and Brett Myers; in ’09, Cliff Lee, Hamels in a lost state, Pedro Martinez in his last hurrah and Blanton/J.A. Happ.

This time, the Big Three can pitch 12 of the maximum 14 games remaining on normal or extended rest. The rotations of both the Giants and Braves might be nearly as good. But to beat the Phils, the survivor’s pitching staff might need to perform almost mistake-free.

The Giants would stand a chance; they possess more experience than the Reds. Rookie catcher Buster Posey plays as if he is 33, not 23. Veterans such as Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell and Juan Uribe carry themselves with a certain swagger. But we’re still talking about a team that ranked ninth in the NL in runs in the regular season, and has managed only eight in three games against the Braves.

Good luck to such an outfit against the Phillies. Good luck to any team needing to win four games against the Big Three.

Tagged: Yankees, Rangers, Reds, Astros, Phillies, Giants, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels, Tim Lincecum, Joey Votto

More Stories From Ken Rosenthal

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



MLB Videos

Bautista talks Derek Jeter's final All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Jose Bautista discusses Derek Jeter's career and his final appearance in the MLB...

Jeter honored to play in last All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Derek Jeter compares his first All-Star Game experience with his last, Mike Trou...

Matheny defends Wainwright: He's out there to compete Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Mike Matheny comments on the media's reaction to Adam Wainwright's joke about le...

SimLeague Baseball - Simulation Baseball Game

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Yankees/browse/featuredproduct/606363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_606000/ff_606363_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash
    Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/1064043/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1064000/ff_1064043_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Gray http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067359/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067359_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room Pullover Hoodie - Steel http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067382/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067382_xl.jpg&w=100 54.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room 39THIRTY Flex Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067785/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067785_xl.jpg&w=100 31.95 New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Ro..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068294/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068294_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Bl..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice Performance Jersey - Black/Orange http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068787/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068787_xl.jpg&w=100 94.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice P..