Baker counting on righties to tame Phils

You’ve got to love the postseason. Not a single pitch has been thrown, and Reds manager Dusty Baker already is getting second-guessed for electing to start right-handers in the first three games against the Phillies.

Where is rookie left-hander Travis Wood, who took a perfect game into the ninth inning against the Phillies on July 10 at Citizens Bank Park?

In the Reds’ bullpen along with three other lefties: Bill Bray, Arthur Rhodes and, ahem, Aroldis Chapman.

Curious? Perhaps. But Baker’s decision to bypass Wood in favor of righties Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto probably will not determine the outcome of this series.

The Reds are underdogs not because of whom they will pitch, but whom they will face: the Phillies’ Big Three of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and left-hander Cole Hamels.

The Big Three, who could start 17 of a possible 19 postseason games, make the Phillies the favorites not just to beat the Reds, but also to win the World Series.

Still, the Reds stand a puncher’s chance, and perhaps better than that.

Lest anyone forget, the Reds led the NL in scoring this season, even tattooing Oswalt for nine runs in 12 innings when he was with the Astros. Halladay and Hamels fared much better against Cincinnati, allowing just four runs combined in 24 2/3 innings. But it’s not out of the question the Reds offense will make the Phillies uncomfortable.

The Phillies, of course, also can hit. Indeed, for all their injuries this season — all their fits and starts — they finished second in the league in runs.

 

Their lineup leans left: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez bat left-handed, while Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are switch-hitters. But the Phillies actually hit lefties better than righties this season. Utley was much better against lefties, and Howard’s splits (.825 OPS vs. LHP, .877 vs. RHP) were the closest of his career.

So maybe Dusty isn’t delirious after all.

Volquez’s dominant stuff and success against left-handed hitters make him a reasonable choice to start Game 1. Arroyo struggles against left-handers, but the Phillies occasionally are vulnerable to softer throwers. Cueto twice pitched well against the Phils this season; it would be difficult for Baker to justify starting Wood over him as well.

Frankly, the bigger question with the Reds is their bullpen. Closer Francisco Cordero had an inconsistent season and was particularly bad in September. Baker, unless desperate, probably will be too loyal to Cordero to ditch him for Chapman in the ninth inning. But Chapman could be a huge force against the Phillies’ left-handed sluggers, who have yet to dig in against his 105-mph offerings.

The left side of the Phillies’ bullpen will be much thinner than the Reds’, even if J.C. Romero recovers sufficiently from a back problem. But Phillies setup man Ryan Madson and closer Brad Lidge both have been hot for about two months now. And the Big Three pitch so deep into games, they reduce the impact of the ‘pen.

The Reds are a fun group, and they won’t be afraid, even though most of their players lack postseason experience.

The problem is that they’re facing a superior club.

Phillies in 3.