The Cincinnati Reds have baseball's second-best record and appear to be headed for just their second postseason appearance in the last 17 years.
They have to be thrilled the Philadelphia Phillies almost certainly won't be around in October as well.
The Reds look to avoid losing their eighth straight and 16th out of 17 against the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, but that won't be easy considering how impressive Cliff Lee has looked against Cincinnati of late.
The Reds' last trip to the playoffs ended quickly with a 2010 NL division series sweep at the hands of Philadelphia, a three-game stretch that fit right in with the Phillies' dominance in this series.
Philadelphia (57-65) won seven of eight from Cincinnati (74-49) in 2011, and didn't miss a beat in its first meeting in 2012. The Reds tallied two runs in the first Monday, but the Phillies scored in every inning but the second, totaling 15 hits in a 12-5 rout.
"It seems like they play us pretty tough here," center fielder Chris Heisey told the Reds' official website. "We score some runs and they come right back. That's a momentum shift."
Cincinnati scored all five of its runs off Roy Halladay, but it hasn't had much success against the former Cy Young Award winner it'll see on the hill Tuesday. Lee (2-7, 3.83 ERA) is 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA in three outings against the Reds since 2010, lasting at least eight innings in each while totaling 22 strikeouts and two walks.
The left-hander has been a much less effective pitcher in 2012, of course, and his latest problem has been the long ball. Lee struck out 12 but gave up three solo homers and left without a decision after 7 2-3 innings in Thursday's 7-4 loss at Milwaukee, bringing his total to 11 blasts allowed over his last five starts.
Eight of those have come at home, where he wasn't won since Sept. 5.
"It was one of those games," Lee told the team's official website.
That's a phrase Homer Bailey (10-8, 4.16) has likely felt like repeating recently. The right-hander fell to 1-2 with an 8.24 ERA in his last four outings after allowing six runs and eight hits over 5 2-3 innings Thursday in an 8-4 home loss to the Mets.
"I feel good out there throwing, and into starts and stuff," Bailey said. "I'm not really getting that sore between starts. Physically, I feel great. I have no excuses, just not making pitches as consistently as I need to."
He hasn't made many good pitches to the Phillies. Bailey is 0-3 with a 5.88 ERA in five career starts versus Philadelphia, including a 7.00 ERA in four at Citizens Bank Park.
This season, however, Bailey has done his best work away from home. He's 3-6 with a 5.42 ERA in 13 starts in Cincinnati but 7-2 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 road outings.
The Reds have won Bailey's last eight road starts since he failed to make it out of the fourth inning in an 8-3 loss at Milwaukee on May 8.
Jay Bruce had been just the opposite of Bailey, thriving at home and struggling on the road, but he went 3 for 3 in the series opener. The right fielder is hitting .457 (16 for 35) with four homers and 11 RBIs in nine games since manager Dusty Baker gave him two days off to work out of a slump.
Starting with Game 2 of the 2010 NLDS, Bruce is hitting .481 (13 for 27) with four homers and 14 RBIs in his last six games in Philadelphia.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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