Off a 3-for-4 game in the series finale against the Brewers, Domonic Brown and the Phillies face the Cincinnati Reds in a four-game series. (Philliedelphia/Kevin Durso)
As the season winds down, it's easier to separate the men from the boys and contenders from pretenders.
The Reds fit both of the former descriptions.
Cincinnati has been a revived team after missing the playoffs in 2011 following their first division title since 1995. They are the next team on the Phillies' schedule.
The Reds come with a dominant pitching core and excellent offense. Leading the way, especially in the absence of former MVP Joey Votto, who is out with injury, is Jay Bruce.
With several other rising stars in All-Star regular Brandon Phillips, Drew Stubbs, Zach Cozart and two high-class rookies in Todd Frazier and Xavier Paul, as well as contributions for veterans Ryan Hanigan and Ryan Ludwick, the Reds feature tough outs from top to bottom.
Their pitching is even better. At the back end of the bullpen is fireball closer Aroldis Chapman, who has developed into a dark horse Cy Young candidate, Jose Arredondo and Sean Marshall. And the doesn't even include a brilliant group of starters. The Phillies will see four of their dominant arms in this series.
Here are the pitching matchups for the series.
In the opener, Roy Halladay (6-7, 3.80 ERA) goes against Mike Leake (5-7, 4.29 ERA) - Halladay took a tough-luck loss to the Marlins after allowing three runs through seven innings in what would be a 9-2 Phillies' loss. Halladay won his prior two starts allowing just one run in a combined 15 innings. In his career against the Reds (six starts), Halladay is 2-1 with a 2.56 ERA.
Leake's last start was a beauty as he allowed one run in a complete-game win over the Mets. Since the All-Star Break, Leake has only three decisions in seven starts and has allowed at least three runs in four of his last six starts. In his career against the Phillies (three starts), Leake is 0-1 with a 6.64 ERA.
In the second game, Cliff Lee (2-7, 3.83 ERA) faces Homer Bailey (10-8, 4.16 ERA) - Lee pitched 7 2/3 innings allowing three runs and being in a position to win when the bullpen let another one get away. Lee ended the night being charged with four runs but the last one was unearned due to an error. That helped Lee remain winless in August, as his last win was July 31. In his career against the Reds (10 starts), Lee is 6-2 with a 4.04 ERA.
Bailey allowed six runs (four earned) in 5 2/3 innings in taking the loss to the Mets in his last start. Bailey has struggled of late. After posting four straight wins to open July, Bailey is 1-2 since and has allowed at least four runs in four straight starts. In his career against the Phillies (five starts), Bailey is 0-3 with a 5.88 ERA.
In the third game, Vance Worley (6-8, 4.11 ERA) takes the mound against Bronson Arroyo (9-7, 3.96 ERA) - Worley saw his struggles continue in his last start, allowing four runs in 4 2/3 innings. Worley has not won a game since August 1, and has just two wins since the end of June. In his career against the Reds (two starts), Worley is 1-0 with a 5.73 ERA.
Arroyo pitched well enough to win his last start, allowing three runs in 6 1/3 innings against the Cubs. Arroyo has won five of his last six starts and has allowed more than three runs just twice in that stretch. In his career against the Phillies (10 games, nine starts), Arroyo is 1-7 with a 7.28 ERA.
In the finale, Cole Hamels (14-6, 2.94 ERA) gets the start against Johnny Cueto (16-6, 2.44 ERA) - Hamels didn't continue his shutout streak but he did win another game, his third straight, by beating the Brewers, allowing three runs over 7 2/3 innings. In his career against the Reds (nine starts), Hamels is 7-0 with a 1.44 ERA.
Cueto rounds out this Cy Young match, coming into the game after allowing two runs over eight innings in his last start to pick up his league-leading 16th win of the season. Since the end of May, Cueto has posted an 11-3 record, allowing three runs or more in just five of 14 starts. In his career against the Phillies (five starts), Cueto is 1-2 with a 5.65 ERA.
August 20 - Phillies 3, Reds 2
August 21 - Phillies 2, Reds 5
August 22 - Phillies 3, Reds 5
August 23 - Phillies 3, Reds 4
Because the Phillies' starting pitching has been a question all season, it is a question as to whether or not they can keep up in this series. The Phillies appear to have the edge in the opener, and, based on the career numbers against the opponent, advantages in every game.
But those numbers are from the past. Roy Halladay might still have an advantage on Mike Leake. But an unlucky Cliff Lee likely falls to Homer Bailey. Vance Worley pitching through pain likely falls to Bronson Arroyo.
The last game is too close to call in terms of starters. These are two of baseball's best this season, and it should make for a great game. But, I think the game comes down to bullpens. In that case, it's no contest.
The Phillies could still prove the Reds wrong, but based on the matchups alone, as well as the two teams' place in the standings, the Reds have the overall advantage. For a team that has found a knack for pulling victories from out of nowhere, the Phillies have the odds stacked against them this series.
Kevin Durso is a contributor for Philliedelphia. You can follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.