MLB

Phillies-Reds Preview

The Cincinnati Reds rallied for another win in their final at-bat as the Philadelphia Phillies saw perhaps their biggest fear for the 2016 season realized yet again.

After coming through against the Phillies bullpen for a second time, the Reds will have Robert Stephenson on the mound for his major league debut Thursday when they go for a three-game sweep.

Scott Schebler hit a bases-loaded double with one out in the ninth inning on Wednesday to lift the Reds to a 3-2 win and deliver another crushing loss to a Phillies team that saw its bullpen blow a lead for the second straight game.

Cincinnati battered Philadelphia's relievers for five runs in the eighth inning en route to a 6-2 win on Monday.

The Reds have won six straight and eight of the last 10 meetings.

"These close ones are killing me already," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "It's a shame we wasted two good starts. We need to score more runs."

Maikel Franco accounted for all of Philadelphia's offense with two-run homer in the first inning. Franco, who led the majors with nine home runs and 23 RBIs in spring training, is batting .406 with three homers, four doubles and eight RBIs in eight career games against Cincinnati.

Mackanin made good on his promise to sit first baseman Ryan Howard vs. left-handers. Howard gave way to Darin Ruf against left-hander Brandon Finnegan, but came off the bench for a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning.

Howard should be in the lineup Thursday against Stephenson, Cincinnati's No. 2 prospect and a 2011 first-round draft pick. The 23-year-old right-hander made 25 starts between Class AA Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville last season, and went 8-11 with a 3.83 ERA.

He struggled during the spring, posting a 9.58 ERA in four starts.

Stephenson has a tough act to follow after starters Raisel Iglesias and Finnegan combined to record 16 strikeouts against just one walk in the first two games.

Philadelphia's starting pitchers certainly haven't been a problem, with Jeremy Hellickson and Aaron Nola limiting the Reds to one run and seven hits in 13 innings while striking out 14 without a walk.

That's a trend Charlie Morton hopes to continue as he makes his Phillies debut. Morton, acquired from Pittsburgh in December, went 9-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 23 starts for the Pirates last season, compiling a 13.94 mark in his final three.

He's 6-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 17 career starts against the Reds, but did toss seven innings in a 3-0 victory at Great American Ball Park on Aug. 2.

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is 12 for 37 against Morton, but his status for this one is uncertain after he was scratched close to game time on Wednesday because of a stomach virus.

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