Tuesday 5 October 2010
Following is a look at the match-ups.
The Phillies look formidable, fueling a campaign for a third successive trip to the World Series with a big-time trio of starters nicknamed H2O — Roy Halladay (21-10), Cole Hamels (12-11) and Roy Oswalt (13-13), who posted a 7-1 record after coming to Philadelphia in a trade with Houston.
That trio will be matched against the National League’s top-rated offensive team in the Reds, who are returning to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
First baseman Joey Votto (.324, 37 home runs and 113 RBIs) paces an attack that led the league in homers with 188 with young outfielders Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs , and third baseman Scott Rolen also topping the 20-homer mark.
The Phillies offense suffered from injuries in the season to shortstop Jimmy Rollins, second baseman Chase Utley , third baseman Placido Polanco and centerfielder Shane Victorino .
Philadelphia remains explosive, however, and it will be up to the 13th-ranked Cincinnati pitching staff (4.01 ERA) to hold them down if the Reds are to pull off an upset.
Game One starter Edinson Volquez , a 17-game winner in 2008, returned from 2009 Tommy John surgery in July, going 4-3, but has shown signs of regaining his form. Bronson Arroyo (17-10) and Johnny Cueto (12-7) follow him in the rotation.
Cuban rookie Aroldis Chapman adds zest from the bullpen, exciting fans with a fastball that can top 100 mph (160 kph).
Brad Lidge , a perfect 41-for-41 in save situations in 2008 when the Phillies won the World Series crown, has returned to form after a miserable 2009 to provide late-inning confidence.
These two teams went down to the 162nd and final game of the season to clinch berths in the post-season and now will battle for a place in the National League Championship Series.
The Giants rely on stellar pitching in young starters Tim Lincecum (16-10), Matt Cain (13-11) and Jonathan Sanchez (13-9) backed by a long-ball attack from first baseman Aubrey Huff (26 homers), free-swinging shortstop Juan Uribe (24), outfielder Pat Burrell (18) and rookie catcher Buster Posey (18).
Infield defense could be a sore spot, as Uribe and third baseman Pablo Sandoval don’t have very good range on the left side and second baseman Freddy Sanchez is battling a strained right rotator cuff that forces him to lob throws.
The Braves are similarly set up.
Tim Hudson (17-9), Derek Lowe (16-12) and Tommy Hanson (10-11) set the tone for the Braves, whose offense is sparked by rookie power hitter Jason Heyward (18 homers) but is suffering from the injury losses of Chipper Jones and young second baseman Martin Prado .
The wildcard Braves have a big swing in home and road records and might feel the sting of playing a deciding game in San Francisco. Atlanta is a league-best 56-25 at home but only 35-46 on the road.
Victory would be an unexpected gift for manager Bobby Cox, who is retiring at the end of the campaign. Cox steered the Braves to 14 successive post-season appearances from 1991 and is back in the playoffs for the first time in five years.