They may be two of the more talented teams in the National League, but thus far in 2013, the Phillies and Reds have each been plagued with inconsistencies that have led to a pair of middling 6-7 records.
They meet for the second of three in Cincinnati on Tuesday with the Reds -- 4-2 winners on Monday -- looking to clinch a series victory.
For the Phillies, the inconsistencies have stemmed from their inability to piece together a complete game. During the season's first week, the pitching struggled, but in the last four games, it's been the offense -- with just eight runs in that period -- that has been subpar.
The Reds, meanwhile, started out hot, with series wins over the Angels and Nationals followed by a 13-4 thrashing of St. Louis last Monday. But they promptly lost five in a row, including three straight to Pittsburgh, before Monday's victory snapped the streak.
"It's not fun losing," said Reds third baseman Todd Frazier. "It's good to be back home. We'll get back on our stride again."
Phillies right-hander Kyle Kendrick takes the mound at Great American Ball Park, where he has a 5.71 ERA in three starts. He notched an important quality start against the Mets last Wednesday, allowing two runs on eight hits in six innings.
Kendrick will have to work down in the zone, especially in such a hitter-friendly stadium. Both the runs he surrendered against the Mets came via the long ball.
Opposite Kendrick is fellow righty Homer Bailey, who struggled mightily against the rival Cardinals last week, allowing five runs in seven innings. He was taken out after being hit in the ankle with a comebacker, but after the game said there was no damage, and that he was removed simply because he was struggling.
"I didn't really come out of the game because of my foot," Bailey said following the start. "It was because of me giving up the rockets that haven't really landed yet."
That outing was a bit out-of-character for Bailey, who had allowed just 10 runs in his previous 54 2/3 innings dating back to last season. He opened his 2013 campaign with six shutout frames against Washington.
Phillies: Utley likely back in lineup
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel held second baseman Chase Utley out of the starting lineup for the first time in 2013 on Monday. Injuries have prevented Utley from playing a full season since 2009.
"I figured he hasn't been off and has played 12 games," Manuel said. "I said I was going to watch him, and I said I was going to pick times to sit him."
Utley pinch-hit in the eighth inning and hit a game-tying, two-run homer after utility man Freddy Galvis got the start. Galvis has played in three straight games, giving Utley, third baseman Michael Young and shortstop Jimmy Rollins one day off apiece.
Reds: Freeman called up
Reds reliever Justin Freeman took the roster spot of ace Johnny Cueto, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Freeman had a 1.80 ERA in four appearances for Triple-A Louisville.
"I liked his stuff in Spring Training," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He was hurt in Spring Training, but then he pitched against the Diamondbacks in the exhibition game, and he looked real good in the exhibition game."
Freeman led the Southern League in appearances last season with 57, posting a 2.91 ERA.
• Since 2000, the Phillies are 30-16 in Cincinnati. In fact, the Reds haven't won a season series against the Phillies since 2003.
• The Reds' nine pinch-hits this season lead the National League. Philadelphia is second with eight.
• Against Bailey, Utley is hitting just .235 in 17 at-bats. All four of his hits are singles.
• Tuesday marks the Reds' fifth consecutive game in a stretch that will see them play on 20 straight days.