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10/08/10 10:41 PM ET

Reds seek epic comeback against Phils

CINCINNATI -- In Game 1 the Reds did not hit, literally, becoming victims of the second no-hitter in 1,269 postseason games in Major League Baseball history.

In Game 2, they did not field, contributing four errors and five unearned runs to a 7-4 loss.

In Game 3, they will not give in.

"I'm not worried too much about these guys," Reds manager Dusty Baker said hours before his guys would face the Phillies and elimination in Sunday night's Game 3 of the NL Division Series at 8 p.m. ET (TBS and Postseason.TV) at Great American Ball Park.

"It is a tough spot, but it's not impossible."

It is unprecedented. Not only have all 18 previous teams with a 2-0 lead gone on to win the Division Series but 15 of them completed the sweep.

Getting the chance to drop the hammer for the Phillies is left-hander Cole Hamels, who has wielded the tool expertly in the past, going 3-0 in postseason knockout games.

Hamels has the momentum of September (4-1, 1.82 ERA) and a ridiculous slate against the Reds going for him.

Hamels began building his lifetime record of 6-0 with a 1.07 ERA against the Reds right here, when he pitched five innings of one-hit shutout ball in his May 12, 2006, big league debut.

The lineup he faces could be missing shortstop Orlando Cabrera, whose recurring left-side muscle strain may sideline him. Cabrera, who has never faced Hamels, will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by Paul Janish, who has three hits in seven at-bats against the lefty.

Providing Hamels' mound opposition will be right-hander Johnny Cueto, a mercurial 24-year-old who can fill the strike zone with an assortment of hard stuff and fills his manager with faith.

"I have confidence in Johnny Cueto," Baker said. "If not, he would not be starting. He's a young man that's hungry. He's a young man that's been through a lot in his short lifetime, so we got a lot of confidence in Johnny Cueto."

But, Baker added, "We can't afford to get behind. We need to get ahead."

That is usually a sure-fire way to erase preceding downers. However, grabbing a 4-0 lead in the game following Roy Halladay's no-hitter had done the Reds little good, leading only to a string of mistakes that led to their current predicament.

"Now we have to fight for our lives," said Cincinnati third baseman Scott Rolen, the principal in two key plays which contributed to that Game 2 defeat. "We'll be back home in front of our home crowd, and we can't worry about past mistakes at this point."

Two unique, and uniquely different, victories have reinforced the mission of the two-time defending NL champion Phillies. Between Halladay's sparkling no-hitter and the grungy triumph in Game 2, Philadelphia is one win away from completing the first step to its goal of becoming the first team to win three consecutive NL pennants since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals.

Thirteen hits in two games, only two of them for extra bases (Game 1 doubles by Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez), is not how manager Charlie Manuel would have envisioned them assuming a commanding position.

"Actually, we weren't playing so great until halfway through that game, too," Manuel said. "We were making mistakes, too. But at the same time, we took advantage of the mistakes, of course, and we ended up winning the ballgame.

"I mean, that's what it's all about. You know, like luck sometimes is better than being good, I guess."

Both of these teams pride themselves in their abilities to play in the present. "Forget about yesterday and don't think about tomorrow" is the acceptable slogan in both clubhouses.

That mantra will serve the Reds especially well, given their self-destruction in Game 2.

Their strategy to begin reversing this series is quite clear: Stop making four errors, and stop allowing five unearned runs.

They had allowed as many unearned runs only once previously all this year. They tied for the second fewest unearned runs (37) allowed among the 16 National League teams in the 162-game regular season.

"We've got to go on to Game 3 and be better than we have been," said second baseman Brandon Phillips, charged with half of the Reds' four errors on Friday. "We've got to catch those balls, make those plays. We can't give the Phillies extra outs like that. It stinks to lose the way we did."

"It's been our strength all year," Rolen said of the team's defense. "I give our pitchers credit. We weren't walking people. We weren't giving bases away. We were getting the ball in play. It's been a nice formula for us all year."

The Reds' reputation also puts the Phillies on the alert that this series is not over. Manuel is always fond of saying that "this is a sport of momentum," and fickle old Mo can change sides in a heartbeat.

"They're very capable and they are a good team," Manuel said. "And not only are they a good team, but they're going to get better. And I have a lot of respect for them and believe me, we don't take 'em lightly at all."

Another day off between games helped the Reds regroup. Taking the field in front of their welcoming home crowd could give them another boost.

That may not be a game-changer, however. The Reds' season-long consistency has included being a good road club, the only one in the NL Central to have a winning record (42-39) away from home.

Did you know?
• Including AL Division Series, 89 percent of teams (34 of 38) to grab a 2-0 lead have gone on to take the series and 68 percent (26) did so with sweeps.
• In addition to his sparkling Major League debut, Hamels also saved arguably the best game of his career for Great American Ball Park: His complete-game five-hitter, with 15 strikeouts, on April 21, 2007. If you're keeping (Game) Score, that was a 91 on the same scale that gave Halladay a 94 for his Game 1 no-hitter.
• Johnny Cueto had a modest regular-season record of 12-7, but the Reds bullpen blew saves in six other possible victories. Only the Marlins' Josh Johnson was victimized by more blown saves -- seven.

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