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BLOG: The Reds Are Playing For Their Lives

Cincinnati Reds v Houston Astros

By Joseph Santoliquito

From a distance, the numbers look impressive for Phillies’ Game 2 NLDS starter Roy Oswalt. He has a career 23-3 mark against Cincinnati, most of that coming while he was pitching for the Houston Astros, with a 2.81 ERA in 34 career starts against the Reds.

On the other side, you have the enigmatic Bronson Arroyo going for the Reds. He could be here, he could there, he could be anywhere. It depends on which Arroyo shows up. And if you look at what Arroyo has done through time against the Phillies, why even bother watching the game tonight: Arroyo is 1-5 lifetime against the Phillies, with a 5.54 ERA. He’s 0-1 with a 10.38 ERA in his only start at Citizens Bank Park, back on June 2, 2008, when he gave up 5 runs on 10 hits through 4.1 innings pitched (in a 5-4 Phillies’ victory, where Chase Utley went 3-for-4 with a homer).

It may be important to take a closer at what Oswalt and Arroyo have done lately, wouldn’t it?

Oswalt is 0-2 against the Reds this season, with a 6.75 ERA. It has to be noted he’s never started against the Reds as a Phillie. His last start against Cincinnati came on July 24, in a 7-0 blowout by the Reds over the listless Astros. Oswalt gave up six earned runs on nine hits in five innings. Joey Votto homered off of him, as did Ramon Hernandez. Reds’ left fielder Laynce Nix went 3-for-3, with a double.

Arroyo, on the other hand, has won three of his last four starts, and 3-0 with a no-decision in that span. Right-handed batters are hitting .185 against him (a pertinent stat vs. the Phillies right now, which we’ll explain later) and .285 against lefties. It has to noted the Phillies’ five hits in Game 1 against the Reds came in the first three innings. They didn’t put a dent into the Reds’ bullpen after scoring the 4 runs. The Phillies’ production in Game 1 came from the right side of the plate—with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley going a combined 0—for-7, thought Utley did have a sacrifice fly to score the Phils’ first run.

This is a dangerous game. The Reds are still a dangerous team—made even more so by being no-hit by Roy Halladay in the series opener and by facing the possibility of going down 0-2 in the series when it heads back to Cincinnati Sunday night.

Remember, the Phillies were 5-2 against the upstart Reds during the regular season, but four of those five victories came in extra innings. The Phillies beat the Reds by a total of five runs, including consecutive 1-0 shutouts.

The residual euphoria of the Halladay no-hitter still lingers. Phillies’ fans have been giddy ever since Wednesday night’s masterpiece. You’d have to suspect the Phillies to have some happy feet themselves, while the young, aggressive Reds have been left to stew for a day over history being made at their expense.

No, don’t expect Game 2 to be all that easy.

CBS Philly author bio: Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area. He’s the Managing Editor of Ring Magazine, there since October 1997. He also covers high school and college sports for the Philadelphia Daily News, and has written notable front-page stories on disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy, and on the winning battle Boston College’s Mark Herzlich waged against cancer. Santoliquito is best known nationally for his stunning portrayal of a high school wrestler overcoming the tragic killing of his parents in an award-winning ESPN.com piece in 2006 that also appeared on SportsCenter and later on HBO’s Real Sports. He has been producing the popular blog on 610WIP.com since 2006. He can be reached at SantoliquitoCBSPhilly@yahoo.com.