It was the Cincinnati Reds who opened the season with a sweep over the Philadelphia Phillies, but the latter has surprised everyone since.
While the Phillies hope to continue opening eyes, the visiting Reds seek their eighth straight win in this series in Friday night’s opener of a three-game set.
Cincinnati (14-20) opened the season 5-1 starting with a sweep of Philadelphia (20-15) to extend its winning streak over the Phillies to seven, but while the Reds have sunk toward the bottom of the NL Central, the Phillies remain in the thick of the East.
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Philadelphia picked up its 20th win nearly a month earlier than last season with Thursday’s 7-4, 10-inning victory over Atlanta. Cameron Rupp’s double in the 10th drove in three runs, and Odubel Herrera matched his career high with four hits – the last a triple to start the winning rally.
"To come up and pick up your teammates … it was kind of a big game for us," Rupp said. "To get that hit was pretty exciting."
The offensive outburst was a welcome sight after the Phillies averaged just 2.8 runs over their previous 10 games. They will try to keep it going to back starter Jeremy Hellickson.
Hellickson (2-2, 4.91 ERA) suffered a tough-luck loss in the season opener against the Reds despite not allowing an earned run. He gave up one unearned run and three hits in six innings while striking out six without a walk.
Hellickson has since been up and down. After holding Washington scoreless over seven two-hit innings in a 3-0 win April 27, the right-hander was rocked for 15 hits and nine runs in 10 2/3 over his last two starts. He gave up five home runs in those outings.
Philadelphia lost both of Hellickson’s career starts against the Reds – the first in 2011 – even though he struck out 15 in 12 innings.
Zack Cozart has hits in all three of his at-bats and two doubles in the machup, while Brandon Phillips is 2 for 5 with a double and two RBIs. However, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Eugenio Suarez, Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton are a combined 1 for 18.
Cincinnati will counter with Brandon Finnegan, who already has one win over Philadelphia in his back pocket.
Finnegan (1-1, 4.15) picked up an April 6 victory against the Phillies, holding them to three hits and two runs in six innings while walking one and striking out nine.
After giving up four earned runs in his first three starts, Finnegan has surrendered 14 in his last four. The left-hander gave up seven hits and five runs – three earned – in five innings of Saturday’s 13-7 loss to Milwaukee. Four runs came on three homers.
"I just didn’t have my best stuff," Finnegan told MLB’s official website. "I tried to battle through with what I had. I did well for the most part but they got a couple of balls in the air and they flew. That’s what happens."
Maikel Franco is the only current Philadelphia hitter to homer off Finnegan.