Friday October 8th, 2010

Cliff Corcoran will break down each day's playoff games every day during the postseason.

Series: NLDS, Game 2, Phillies lead 1-0 Time: 6:00 p.m. EST TV: TBS Starters: Bronson Arroyo (17-10, 3.88 ERA) vs. Roy Oswalt (13-13, 2.76 ERA)

Funny, there weren't many complaints on Thursday about how heavily favored the Phillies are in this postseason. Having your ace no-hit what was the best offense in the league in the regular season tends to silence the doubters. It will be interesting to see how the Reds offense bounces back from Wednesday night's passage into infamy. In Game 6 of the 1956 World Series, the day after Don Larsen's perfect game, the Dodgers managed just one run on four hits against the Yankees' Bob Turley, but that run, which came in the bottom of the 10th, was enough to win the game thanks to Clem Labine's 10 shutout innings.

Arroyo isn't about to match Labine's performance, but there's a solid chance that the Reds lineup could match the Dodgers'. Roy Oswalt was white-hot coming down the stretch, going 7-0 with a 1.31 ERA in his last 11 starts, 10 of which the Phillies ultimately won. Reds fans will point to the fact that Cincinnati beat Oswalt twice earlier in the year, but both of those games came when Oswalt was still an Astro, and in the first, he allowed just three runs over seven innings but lost 4-2 thanks to a lack of support from the pitiful Houston offense.

More importantly, Oswalt has been a different pitcher since joining the Phillies. He's getting more groundballs and fewer line drives, the former having spiked his double-play rate, and he's getting better support from the Phillies' excellent fielders. He has also been a lucky on balls in play, beyond the boost received from upgrading from the Astros' defense to the Phillies'. That last gives the Reds some hope that Oswalt's luck will run out this evening, but even if it does, they still have one of the league's best pitchers to contend with.

As for Arroyo, he's a solid, mid-rotation workhorse, which, truth be told, is really all Andy Pettitte has been for most of his career. Of course, Pettitte has a record 19 postseason wins, and Arroyo has a 7.41 ERA in two postseason starts and eight relief appearances, though those all came five and more years ago with the Red Sox while Arroyo was still working to establish himself as a major league starter. Arroyo hasn't faced the Phillies since the first half of the 2008 season and was rocked in those two starts, allowing 10 runs in 10 innings on 19 hits, seven of which were home runs (though only two of those were hit by current Phillies: one each by Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley)

With Oswalt and the Phillies' offense clicking, it's hard to see how anyone can be optimistic about the Reds' chances in this game, or this series. The only thing the Reds have to cling to from Game 1 is that Travis Wood, Logan Ondrusek and Bill Bray held the Phillies to a double and a walk over 6 1/3 scoreless innings after starter Edinson Volquez departed.

Series: NLDS, Game 2, Giants lead 1-0 Time: 9:30 p.m. EST TV: TBS Starters: Tommy Hanson (10-11, 3.33 ERA) vs. Matt Cain (13-11, 3.14 ERA)

The Braves don't have much more to build on in Friday's nightcap than the Reds do in the early game. They managed just a pair of doubles and a walk against Tim Lincecum in Game 1 and struck out 14 times. Most of the credit for that goes to Lincecum, but the Braves' offense was also shut out by the Phillies' Vance Worley and a quartet of relievers on the penultimate day of the season, accumulating just two singles and a double, two walks, and seven strikeouts in that game. Zooming out a bit, the Braves averaged just 3.08 runs per game in their final dozen games of the season, and if you factor in Thursday night's loss, that figure drops below three runs per game.

That scuffling lineup will now have to face Matt Cain, who went 7-2 with a 2.48 ERA in the 14 starts before his dud against the Padres on the final weekend. The good news for the Braves there is that one of the weakest among those 14 came in Atlanta, when Cain give up three runs in five innings before getting the hook. Also, Matt Cain is not Tim Lincecum. Though Cain is an excellent pitcher, the drop-off in quality from Game 1 to Game 2 is much steeper in the Giants' rotation than the Phillies'. That gives the Braves some hope, as does the fact that their Game 2 starter, sophomore Tommy Hanson, posted a 1.81 ERA over his final seven starts and held the Giants to one run on three hits over seven innings in his only start against them this year.

Indeed, as much as the Braves' patchwork offense has struggled of late, the Giants' hitters haven't been much hotter. San Francisco hasn't scored more than four runs in any of its last eight games, averaging just 3.13 runs per game over that stretch. On Thursday night, the only run the Giants pushed across was scored by a runner, Buster Posey, who had clearly been thrown out stealing second earlier in the inning only to be called safe by second-base umpire Paul Emmel.

That makes this game a toss-up, one that could easily be decided by another blown call but also by more of the sloppy, or perhaps simply inadequate, defense the Braves displayed in Game 1. They made two errors and could have been charged with a third on Cody Ross' single that scored Posey. Third baseman Omar Infante failed to snare what looked like a fairly routine groundball that should have been the third out of the inning and instead became an RBI single. If the Braves are going to send this series back to Atlanta tied at one, they can't afford to make those kinds of mistakes.

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