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10/03/10 9:57 PM ET

First-timers come into play for Reds, Phillies

The moment both Phillies ace Roy Halladay and the Cincinnati Reds had dreamt about for 15 years finally arrives late Wednesday afternoon in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

Halladay, a No. 1 Draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1995, has waited to leave his footprints on a postseason field. After 169 wins, one Cy Young Award and on the verge of likely another, he will finally take that step as the Phillies open defense of their NL title.

The 33-year-old Doc will scrub up for Cincinnati's first playoff game since 1995 -- when the Reds swept the Dodgers in the very first NLDS before they were swept themselves by Atlanta in the NL Championship Series.

This game, and this series, had been on the horizon ever since the Phillies and the Reds clinched the titles of the East and Central, respectively, on consecutive days a week ago. Yet it wasn't finalized until the dust settled on Showdown Sunday.

Until then, the Reds didn't know whether they would wind up in the frying pan -- they've historically had a tough time winning on the West Coast -- or in the fire. The fire it is, with the first two games at Citizens Bank Park: The Phillies went 12-3 at home in the last two postseasons.

Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker has chosen his most-rested starter as Halladay's Game 1 opponent. Between his recovery from Tommy John surgery 14 months ago and a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Drug Policy, Edinson Volquez has made only 12 starts, totaling fewer than 63 innings, since rejoining the team after the All-Star break.

Even including his Minor League run-up, Volquez's right arm has only 107 innings in it this season -- and, Baker reasoned, plenty of firepower for Philadelphia's potent lineup.

Volquez will be followed by top winner Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto -- against Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, respectively. The idea was to separate two hard throwers with some change of pace, Arroyo having won 17 games with softer breaking stuff.

As the underdogs, the Reds' upset hopes rest on someone setting a good early tone, and Volquez certainly is capable of that. He obviously didn't face the Phillies in his abbreviated 2010 season, but in two career starts against them allowed only one run. Included is his only Citizens Bank Park start in '08, when he fired seven shutout innings on two hits.

Cincinnati's all-righty rotation omits, somewhat surprisingly, left-hander Travis Wood, whose brief history against the Phillies is sterling. On July 10, in only his third Major League start, Wood took a perfect game into the ninth inning in Philadelphia.

Although Baker cited Wood's rookie status, combined with Citizens Bank Park hostility, for excluding him -- in reality he isn't leaving him on the back shelf. Rather, he hopes to be able to feature him as a southpaw alternative to Aroldis Chapman and Arthur Rhodes out of the bullpen.

With Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez -- as well as two switch-hitters, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, with more pop from the left side -- you can't have too many left-handers.

So Wood can still play a big role, which would only grow bigger if the Reds advance in the playoffs.

"He'll be prepared to start the next time if there is a next time," said Baker, adding that the postseason brings, "a different atmosphere. It's a different noise level. It's a different intensity. It's a different everything. This will be more electricity and intensity and cheering and jeering and spitting than anything they've experienced in their lives."

In other left-hander news, Philadelphia reliever J.C. Romero's NLDS participation was thrown into doubt when he had to leave Sunday's game in Atlanta after throwing a pitch that triggered lower back spasms.

Third baseman Placido Polanco perseveres with a balky left elbow that needed a shot of cortisone in mid-week, but otherwise the Phillies appear primed to embark on the road to a third straight pennant -- unprecedented since the World War II-era St. Louis Cardinals reigned in 1942-44.

"Honestly, I think our biggest concern is to make sure we're firing on all cylinders going into the postseason," closer Brad Lidge said, quickly adding, "and I think we are right now."

Even with Sunday's loss to the Braves, the Phillies won 19 of their last 24 games. The Reds were merely a .500 club (12-12) over their last 24.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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