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Reds look to build momentum at home in Game 3

CINCINNATI - Charlie Manuel and the Philadelphia Phillies need just one more win to return to the National League Championship Series.

Cole Hamels is ready to go in Game 3, and if he can't get it done, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt are right behind him.

So while Reds manager Dusty Baker is talking about faith, his time in the military and a self-help book he read earlier this year, Manuel feels comfortable enough to say he doesn't like Cincinnati's chances of advancing.

"It can happen," the grinning manager said yesterday. "It ain't goin' to happen, but it can happen."

The Reds' first postseason trip in 15 years could come to an abrupt end when they host Hamels and the Phillies tonight in the first playoff game at Great American Ball Park.

After Halladay's dazzling no-hitter in Game 1 and a gut-wrenching 7-4 loss by the Reds Friday night that featured seven unanswered Philadelphia runs and a slew of costly mistakes by the NL Central champs, everyone wants to know what Cincinnati has left. "I do think we've turned the page and I think that we're excited to play [today], especially at home," first baseman Joey Votto said. "Hopefully, we get to make it a one-game series in Philadelphia."

Hard to imagine another road trip for the Reds, who have dropped six straight and seven of eight against the two-time defending NL champions. The left side of Cincinnati's infield is ailing, too, with third baseman Scott Rolen playing through back and shoulder stiffness and shortstop Orlando Cabrera likely out for Game 3. Cabrera aggravated an injury to his left side Friday night and could be removed from the roster. He missed 27 games in August and September after pulling muscles in his side.

Hamels will be opposed by 24-year-old Johnny Cueto, who will be making his first postseason start. The hard-throwing righthander won a career-best 12 games this season and was 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA in two starts against the Phillies. He also has been much better at home, including 1-1 with a sparkling 0.96 ERA in his last four starts at Cincinnati's riverfront yard.

New York Sports