Tonight, the Reds try to do something they couldn’t do on Wednesday – get a base hit off a guy named Roy. This time they have to contend with Roy Oswalt, who is not quite as good as Roy Halladay, but is still no walk in the park. There’s nowhere to go but up from their Game One offensive performance, but even still, the Reds shouldn’t count on a scoring bonanza. In order to win this game, they likely need to hold the Phillies to three runs or less.
The man who begins the game with the pressure of stopping the Phillies? Bronson Arroyo, who besides having a “roy” in his last name is not really comparable to his counterpart. His 4.60 xFIP is a better representation of his abilities than his 3.88 ERA, and, well, that’s just not all that great. Especially concerning are his struggles against left-handers. Here are his career splits:
Vs RHB: 2.37 BB/9, 7.48 K/9, 0.87 HR/9 .278 BABIP, 3.64 FIP, 4.08 xFIP
Vs LHB: 2.87 BB/9, 4.56 K/9, 1.39 HR/9, .297 BABIP, 5.21 FIP, 4.95 xFIP
His line against lefties this year was right in line with his career numbers, so he hasn’t gotten any better at getting them out. And, of course, the Phillies line-up is going to be lefty heavy tonight. It’s not a good match-up for the Reds starter.
And so, just like with game one, I’d argue that the Reds best chances of winning tonight involve pulling Arroyo early. You’re tempting fate every time you ask him to get the Rollins-Victorino-Utley-Howard group out more than once. With Aroldis Chapman fresh and the day off tomorrow, I think the Reds should empty their bullpen tonight, regardless of what the score is early. Arroyo gets the first 11 batters and that’s it. If he gets 11 outs, great. If he only gets five or six, well, you live with it.
Once Utley comes to the plate a second time, I’d have Chapman on the mound. Yes, Utley is good against left-handed pitchers, but Chapman is not your average LHP, and the odds of him putting one over the wall are substantially higher against Arroyo. You’re going to want Chapman in against Howard and Ibanez anyway, so maximize the batters he faces by bringing him in to face Utley.
Even though he’s been used in shorter stints out of the bullpen, he’s clearly got the ability to go multiple innings, and I’d try to squeak nine outs out of him if I could. He’s probably the Reds best chance to put zeros on the board, and that’s what they need tonight.
If the Arroyo/Chapman combo gives the Reds five innings and keeps it close, they have a chance. They could then mix and match Homer Bailey, Bill Bray, Nick Masset, Arthur Rhodes, and Francisco Cordero to cover the final four innings, getting the platoon advantage in most situations and generally having pretty good relievers on the mound. But, those guys aren’t going to matter much if the Phillies are up by several runs before they even get to the bullpen.
Arroyo’s had a nice year for the Reds, but this isn’t a game where he should be asked to give you too much. If he can get through the line-up once, he’s done his job and should be congratulated. This isn’t a time to reward him for his regular season work, especially not with a bunch of guys who swing from the left side coming up.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.