Phillies manager Charlie Manuel will start appreciating the fantasy as much as anyone -- at some point."That performance will always linger in your mind," Manuel said of a postseason no-hitter that will only continue to grow in legend, much as Don Larsen's groundbreaking perfect game in the 1956 World Series, "but..." But Manuel's reality is that his lineup was unsettlingly quiet. The Phillies were held to one harmless hit across the final 6 1/3 innings by a trio of Cincinnati relievers. "Going forward, it would be nice if we start hitting the ball more consistent -- putting up more runs on the board," Manuel said. You think the Phillies are having hitting troubles? The Reds haven't had a hit in 10 1/3 innings or a run in 30 innings in Citizens Bank Park. "I didn't know that," said their manager, Dusty Baker. "I still don't know that. The best way to stay in a slump is the quick-count, start keeping count of that stuff. "One thing's for sure," he added. "We're due to get a lot of hits." To boost those laws of averages against nemesis Roy Oswalt, the Reds' lineup will have a couple of new faces. One, catcher Ryan Hanigan, is customarily behind the plate for Bronson Arroyo; he has caught 26 of Arroyo's 34 starts, including the last 15. The other, Laynce Nix, is a big weapon against Oswalt, off whom he is 9-for-17 lifetime, including two doubles and three home runs. Philadelphia's lineup is also likely to have a tweak, with third baseman Placido Polanco apparently on the way to a quick recovery from a strained back. Much is being made of Oswalt's 23-3 career record against the Reds, but that resume is misleading enough in the context of the present to qualify as a baseball Trojan Horse.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Baker made the last out of Nolan Ryan's no-hitter on Sept. 26, 1981, on a ground ball to third base. That was the fifth of Ryan's seven no-hitters.
- The Reds will try to become only the fourth team to come back from a Game 1 defeat to take an NL Division Series, and the first since the 2003 Marlins, who rebounded from that loss to the Giants all the way to a World Series title. The others were the 1999 Braves (Astros) and the 2000 Mets (Giants).
- In the Phillies' 90 historic postseason games, the only other shutout was by Curt Schilling, in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series against Toronto. In that one, Schilling allowed five more hits than did Halladay.
The last Cincinnati lineup to lose consecutive games to Oswalt, at the tail end of the 2008 season, included only two current Reds: Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. Houston lost five of Oswalt's last six starts against the Reds. And the current Reds roster's cumulative lifetime average against him is a solid .290.Bruce did a little inadvertent Rolling Stones riff to explain his team's recent success against Oswalt: "Time was on our side." "But," Bruce added, "the biggest thing is the execution factor and the fact that we have an approach that works and works consistently." On the same subject, Baker said, "Different team. And more of a contact team." The Reds, however, may also see an Oswalt different from the one they twice beat earlier this season, in his Astros phase. "He's a very tough competitor. He's been better than Roy Halladay since he's been here," Baker said. Oswalt can't possibly extend that perceived superiority for another night. The day off between Games 1 and 2 turned into a Halladay moratorium which the Phillies -- who had chosen this Division Series schedule, to enable them to go with a three-man rotation -- viewed in an unfavorable light. "When we're playing good, I like for us to continue on playing. I don't particularly like off-days," Manuel said. "When you're playing good, you like to be on the field playing." By inference, then, the pause should be a good break for the Reds. Cincinnati still has a major challenge if it wishes to avoid returning home to Great American Ball Park in an 0-2 hole. Even if these are the Cincinnati Resilients, as they again reminded everyone, focusing on the obstacles they already had to overcome just to make it into these playoffs: the demoralizing four-game sweep right here prior to the All-Star Game break, the even more humbling sweep by the Cardinals at home in mid-August. "We've been here before," Joey Votto said. "We slept on it. Now we've got to forget it," Baker said. "There's always two sides of history, the side that people love to see and the side that we were on." While it may have counted as only one game in the series standings, Halladay's rebuff could carry more emotional weight. At the very least, it was dramatic validation of the pre-series theme, that a trio of supreme starting pitchers gave the Phillies a tremendous edge. But the Reds can also look at it as a great opportunity to make their postseason mark, by accomplishing something unprecedented. There have been comebacks in postseason series from deficits of 2-0, 3-1, even 3-0. But there has been no comeback from being no-hit (Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, the only prior postseason no-hitter, led to the Yankees' Series win over the Dodgers). When not at his sharpest, Arroyo can have a rotten time with left-handed hitters, who during the 2010 season hit him a hundred points higher (.285) than did right-handers. Plus, 15 of the 29 homers off him were hit by lefties, in fewer at-bats. The Phillies' trio of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez is 7-for-18 against Arroyo. This is what Baker had in mind when he set his Division Series rotation: to have his big winner available to help prevent a possible 0-2 deficit. "Arroyo has been here before," said Baker, before adding a description of the right-hander that could worry Reds fans: "He's not bothered by too much. He's a good-time Charlie." Baker had invoked the same description a couple days earlier of Edinson Volquez, who definitely did not have a good time in his Game 1 start.