Matchup: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Cincinnati Reds

Date/Time: April 17, 2013 7:10 pm EST

Television: ESPN2

Starting Pitchers: Phillies (Lannan) Reds (Leake)

MLB Gambling Odds from Bookmaker

Moneyline: Reds (-135) Phillies (+115)

Total: 8.5

The Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds will play the final game of a three-game set on Wednesday night in Cincinnati. ESPN2 will have coverage of this one. The Reds have struggled on the road so far this year, but they have been taking care of business against top teams at home. Last night’s game was delayed by quite a while because of rain, so neither team got as much rest as normal before this one. Let’s see how this one breaks down.

Game Overview:

The Phillies used to the class of the NL East, but this team has slipped back quite a bit in the past year or two. During that time, the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves were busy getting better. Philadelphia is going to have to really battle stay in playoff contention in the difficult NL East. Two guys have been key in keeping the Phillies offense afloat so far this year. Chase Utley finally looks like he is healthy again, and when he is healthy he is one of the best hitters in baseball. Michael Young has started the season off well, and he could be a nice piece for the Phillies lineup this year.

Philadelphia’s starting rotation used to be the best in baseball, but they aren’t quite as strong at the top now with Doc Halladay and Cole Hamels struggling. Still, this rotation should be one of the top five in the league. John Lannan is a quality pitcher, and I think he was a good pickup from the Nationals in the offseason. Lannan has a 2.77 ERA in his first two starts with the Phillies.

Cincinnati was the class of the NL Central last year. In fact, the Reds finished the regular season with the second most wins of any team in baseball in 2012. Cincinnati is off to a bit of a slow start, but it’s hard to imagine the Reds not contending this season. The Reds have a nice combination of a deep rotation and quality bullpen as well as one of the best lineups in the National League. Injuries to Ryan Ludwick and Johnny Cueto right at the beginning of the season have set this team back a little bit, so now we’ll get to see just how good their depth truly is.

The Reds pitching staff hasn’t been as good as expected this year. The bullpen has had a couple of meltdowns. The bullpen was one of the best in baseball all year in 2012, so you have to assume they’ll improve in the coming weeks. Cueto’s injury really hurts since he is a true Ace at this stage in his career. Mike Leake starts in this one for the Reds, and Leake has been beaten around to the tune of a 6.75 ERA this season. Shin-Soo Choo has started the year off red hot, and it seems he may be the spark the offense needed from the leadoff spot.

Free Pick: Reds ML

The Reds are the much better balanced team here. Cincinnati won 50 games at home last season, and I expect them to have another very good season this year. I like the Reds here at a reasonable price.