Head-to-head comparisons of the N.L. East-champion Philadelphia Phillies and the N.L. Central- champion Cincinnati Reds:
Starting pitching: Phillies. Philadelphia changed its aces on the fly, without skipping a beat. The Phillies enter playoffs without 2009 No. 1 Cliff Lee, but ’08 stud Cole Hamels is back on form with Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt lined up alongside him. The Reds don’t really know what they’ll get out of Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto.
Relief pitching: Phillies. The bullpen is the weakest part of the team but still gets a slight advantage over a Reds team that can’t feel good about closer Francisco Cordero. Aroldis Chapman is a wild card for Cincinnati.
Hitting: Reds. The Phillies have the name guys in Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, but Cincinnati led the N.L. in scoring. Joey Votto, the likely N.L. MVP, joined Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs and Scott Rolen with 20-plus home runs.
Fielding: Reds. This is an athletic team that can make electrifying plays all over the field. Rolen and shortstop Orlando Cabrera form the Skyline Wall on the left side of the infield.
Bench: Reds. Philadelphia has experienced role players, but the Reds’ Chris Heisey and Laynce Nix have been dangerous hitters off the bench.
Manager: Phillies. Charlie Manuel knows how to get the most out of his team under the gun. Dusty Baker historically has had trouble putting away leads in the playoffs, with his pitching decisions coming back to haunt him.
Gut read: The Phillies could be the reverse lock – a team that has so many things going for it that it cannot win. They are an A.L.-style team and know all about the postseason, having gone 20-12 the last three Octobers. They should beat the Reds, but their advantage isn’t as big as you’d think.
PICK: Phillies in four.
By Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune