After 169 regular-season victories, Doc's internship ends in Game 1.
"Definitely something I'm looking forward to. It's a great challenge," Halladay said. "It's something I've wanted to do my whole career. You almost feel a sense that you've done the heavy lifting and now you get to enjoy it."
Or, have it spoiled: Give the Reds -- who led the NL in the team Triple Crown categories (average, home run, RBI) for the first time since their Big Red Machine days -- a spark and they'll turn it into a firestorm.
Halladay's "whole career" began in 1995, when he was a No. 1 Draft pick of the Blue Jays. The same year ended with the Reds' most recent postseason experience, when they swept the Dodgers in the very first NLDS before they were swept themselves by Atlanta in the NL Championship Series.
Edinson Volquez, the Reds' Game 1 starter, was 12 years old then. Joey Votto, too. Jay Bruce was eight. You get the idea.
"There always has to be a first time," Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. "You've got to start somewhere. This is what you play for, and we feel like we belong."
The Reds might feel like they're in the right place, but the Phillies intend to put them in their place, turning them into the first milestone on their way to a third consecutive NL pennant.
"Make no mistake about it," cautioned Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth. "We feel like we're the best team in baseball and now we're going to go out and try to prove it."
Having the series open in Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies have gone 12-3 in the last two playoffs, does not worry the Reds, for a very basic reason.
"It doesn't matter where you start," Baker said, "because to get where you want to go, you have to go through Philadelphia."
In Volquez, Baker chose 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, 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 Cincinnati 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 enables rookie Travis Wood to form a left-handed relief quartet with Arthur Rhodes, Bill Bray and Aroldis Chapman. The Reds will make Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez -- plus switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino with more pop from the left side -- play southpaw roulette.
Baker, a veteran of both regular and postseason games in Philadelphia, said playoff games here have "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.
"You need a lead to take the crowd out of it," Baker added. "They're going to be deafening. It's going to affect balls in the outfield, so you're going to need hand signals to communicate out there."
The managers do not have to commit to their Series rosters until the morning of Game 1. Philadelphia skipper Charlie Manuel however had good early news on a couple of dinged players, essentially calling both catcher Carlo Ruiz (bruised left elbow) and left-handed reliever J.R. Romero (back spasms) "good to go."
Philadelphia third baseman Placido Polanco has a balky left elbow that needed a shot of cortisone a week ago, and shortstop Jimmy Rollins proclaimed himself still limited by the strained hamstring that had caused him to miss most of the last two weeks of the season.
Otherwise, the Phillies appear primed to embark on the road to a third straight pennant, unprecedented since the World War II-era 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."
Did You Know?
Aroldis Chapman's best fastball has been clocked at 169 kmph (kilometers per hour). That's 105 mph for you metric-challenged.
Since being dealt to St. Louis by Philadelphia in the middle of the 2002 season, Reds third baseman Scott Rolen has hit .327 with four homers and 31 RBIs against the Phillies -- including .310, with two homers and 20 RBIs -- in Philly.
The Phillies' regular-season 5-games-to-2 edge over the Reds was built on the slimmest of margins: Consecutive extra-inning wins in the first three games of their pre-All-Star Game sweep -- the first time in their 141-year history that the Reds lost three straight extra-inning games against the same opponent.
Up to that point, the Reds had won nine consecutive extra-inning road games.
No ninth-inning kitchen runs: The Reds and the Phillies each posted 22 last at-bat wins, second in the Majors to Atlanta's 25.
Likewise, the Reds and the Phillies shared the Major League-lead for most series won, with 32 each.
Head-to-head, however, the managers are not
close: Manuel leads Baker, 24-11.
Baker is getting a lot of props for having become the sixth manager to win division titles with three different teams. Consistently overlooked, however, is Baker's distinction of being only the second to do it with three different teams in the same league, and the first in the NL. Billy Martin won with the Twins, Yankees and A's.
Baker participated in six postseason games here as a player (going 9-for-21, with two homers and five RBIs, and being named MVP of the 1977 NLCS with the Dodgers) and has managed 40 postseason games -- but Wednesday will be his first time managing a postseason game in Philadelphia.
Baker's regular-season record after three years with the Reds: 243-243.
HEAD TO HEAD
2010 Record: Phillies 5,
Batting average: Phillies .230 | Reds .267
Home runs: Phillies 9 | Reds 6
29 | Reds 26
ERA: Phillies 3.31 | Reds 3.90
Strikeouts: Phillies 57 | Reds 39
Phillies 19 | Reds 20
TEAM STATS, RANKINGS
.260 (5), 712 RBIs (3), 163 home runs (5), .413 slugging %
Reds batting: .271 (1), 749 RBIs (1), 184 home
runs (1), .435 slugging % (1)
Complete team offensive stats >>
Phillies pitching: 3.67 ERA (5), 1,163 strikeouts (9),
402 walks (1), 1.242 WHIP (1)
Reds pitching: 4.04 ERA
(8), 1,095 strikeouts (11), 507 walks (5), 1.326 WHIP (7)
Complete team pitching stats >>
AND THE WINNER IS ...
Phillies will win if ... Their Big Three of the mound --
King Cole (Hamels) and the two Roys (Halladay and Oswalt) --
pitch at the same level they did to get the team here. There's no
getting around that.
Reds will win if ... The supporting cast poses enough threat to prevent the bat continually being taken out of Joey Votto's hands, they don't have to dig out of an 0-2 hole by the time they get home and Brandon Phillips refrains from discussing his dislike of the Phillies.