The Cincinnati Reds have slept walk through the National League for much of September, but it really doesn’t matter.
The magic number for clinching a playoff spot is down to six. If the Reds go 6-6 in their 12 remaining games, the Cardinals would have to go 13-0 to tie. Pop some bottles.
The biggest surprise of the season is just a few days away from calling themselves “NL Central Champs.” Sounds pretty good huh?
Now it’s time to start thinking about postseason play.
The Reds will unfortunately have the NL’s worst starting pitching staff heading into October. Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Tim Lineccum, Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Mat Latos, and Ubaldo Jimmenz are all top-flight starters.
The Reds don’t boost a single one.
What they do have is a ton of solid to very good starters.
Bronson Arroyo will start the first game of the series. His consistency has been incredible and he is the only starter with any sort of postseason experience. He picked up his 15th win of the season last week, doing so for the third straight year.
He now has 16, a new personal best. He doesn’t blow by anybody; he just uses his excellent location and guile to frustrate the opponent.
For the season he has 20 quality starts in 31 outings for a 16-10 record.
Johnny Cueto is a lock for the second game. He leads the team with a 3.35 ERA. He has really come of age in his third season in the majors, cutting down on his walks and posting a 1.23 WHIP.
He has also done a better job of keeping his emotions in check. In previous seasons, a young Cueto would get frustrated and few hits would turn into a huge inning and an early shower.
He is much more composed and the Reds should feel safe trotting him on the mound for Game Two.
With more days off in the playoffs, the Reds will need just one more starter. The answer is not an easy one. Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, and Travis Wood are the three candidates.
Homer Bailey has been fairly consistent over the course of the past eight weeks. He missed three months with an arm issue earlier in the season, but appears to be healthily.
He has had nine starts since coming back and lowered his ERA .80 of a point to 4.73 over that span. Not exactly anything to get too wound up about. He is learning how to work himself out of jams and has cut down on his walks.
Bailey has consistently been able to reach 95 MPH on the radar gun and this is the same pitcher that Albert Pujols said “will be amazing” early this year.
Volquez returned from Tommy John surgery in July to mix results. He has been boom or bust for the Reds.
In 10 starts since his return, he has given up one run or less in half of his starts. Yet he has failed to reach the fifth inning in four of his starts, highlighted by not being able to get out of the first inning against the Giants.
The problem has been his mechanics. The Reds brass decided to send him way down the ladder to work out the kinks.
Since being called up from Class-A Dayton, he is 0-1 with a 1.98 ERA in two starts. Volquez has the stuff to snag the third spot in the rotation, but has he fully figured out all of his mechanical issues?
The rookie Wood is the third candidate. The lefty has been great for the Reds since being called up July 1st. He has the best ERA of the bunch at 3.43 ERA.
Wood has been excellent all season, allowing more than four earned runs only once in 15 starts. He has been the model of consistency for a rookie pitcher.
If the Reds play the lefty laced Phillies lineup, except Wood to get the call. Oh yeah, he almost threw a no-hitter against them back in July.
The problem is his pitch count (that’s Nolan Ryan’s groan you are hearing in the background). Between his AAA starts and 15 big league one’s; he has logged over 189 innings pitched. That is by far the most in his career for the 23-year-old.
Mike Leake has already been shutdown after reaching his innings limit, wouldn’t one assume the Reds will do the same with Wood?
Volquez is the best bet. He has the most dominating stuff when he is on and the Reds have to just cross their fingers that he doesn’t have a meltdown in the early innings.
But the beauty of the three-man rotation is that Bailey can always come in to save the day if Volquez falters early. Wood would be the guy, but he needs to be shutdown and preserved for the future.
Go with Volquez and take a deep breath.

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