Phillies @ Cincinnati Reds

First pitch at 7:00 on ESPN

Quibble all you want about the Phillies early record.

But whether you think they should've bagged 2 more games (one apiece from the Royals and Marlins) or not, there's still a golden opportunity to make an early statement.

They get it on the road in Cincy, where they’ve won 8 of 9 spanning back to Game 3 of the 2010 National League Division Series, and with the Reds amid a something of a stumble.

Where They Stand

The Phillies are 6-6, and sit 5 games back of the NL East-leading Braves (11-1).

Or, they’re just 1 game behind everybody’s shoo-in, “Why Even Play Out The Year?” World Series pick, the 7-5 Nationals. Or, 1.5 games back of the “Why Even Play Out The Year?” bottom-dwelling Mets.

Reasons you, you know, actually play the season. And why you remember it’s been just 12 games.

The Phils are 4-1 in their last 5, but have yet to break .500. Tonight makes for their third crack at it.

The Reds, meanwhile, are just 5-7 after a 5-game slide during their latest road trip in St. Louis and Pittsburgh. They’ve scored 1 run or fewer in 3 of those games.

This, after opening the year with series wins over the Angels (2-1) and Nationals (2-1) at the Great American Ballpark out of the chute.

Cincy sits 2 games back of the NL Central-leading Cardinals and 1 under the Pirates.

Hot And Not

Chase Utley is just 3 for 20 (.150) throughout the Phillies 4-1 stretch. Over the span, Jimmy Rollins is just 3 for 16 (.186).

Michael Young’s .357 average and .426 on-base percentage rank second among major-league third basemen. He returned to the lineup Sunday after sitting the day before with an illness.

Ryan Howard worked his average up to .277 after going 3 for 4 in yesterday’s win.

Antonio Bastardo has yet to allow a run. Mike Adams has served just one, on a homer.

Shin-Soo Choo (.354), Brandon Phillips (.327) and Todd Frazier (.318) are all batting over .300 for Cincy so far.

Joey Votto has only 2 extra-base hits and 2 RBI so far. Todd Frazier is 2 for 17 (.117) in his last 5 games.

Eighth-inning guy Jonathan Broxton was tagged for 6 runs in just 2 outs against the Pirates yesterday. He's already blown 2 saves in his first year of a 3-year, $21 million deal from the Reds.

Closer Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, has yet to allow a run in 6 games.

Cliff Lee, Cruising

You may have heard, Cliff Lee’s sorta kinda been killing the game lately.

He’s 2-0 this year with a 1.08 ERA, and is currently working a modern era-record 19 straight games going 6 innings or more while issuing 1 walk or fewer.

Lee's gone 8-deep in both his starts, and finished just an out away from his first complete game since having 6 in 2011.

Cole Hamels and even Roy Halladay have started to come around, having stuck a 1.79 ERA with the rest of the rotation in the 45 1/3 innings during the Phils recent on-the-road surge.

But Lee is and has been front and center for that. And he needs to be moving forward.

He’s 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA in 4 games against Cincy since 2010, with a complete game and 31 strikeouts to 3 walks.

His only time at Great American Ballpark over the span, in August of 2011 with the Phils, he came within an out of another complete game – a would’ve-been shutout.

His only matchup with the Reds last year was among his quality start casualties, as he surrendered just 3 runs (2 earned) in 6 2/3 innings yet left with a no-decision.

Joey Votto is 5 for 13 (.385) against Lee in his career with a home run and a double, but with 3 strikeouts. Brandon Phillips is 8 for 26 (.308) with a home run and 4 doubles and one K.

The Other Guy

Things a team struggling against fastball pitchers likes to see? Bronson Arroyo.

Arroyo (1-1, 5.25 ERA) has been hittable in his 13th year, having allowed 3 or more runs in both his starts and has yet to go more than 6 innings.

His last time out, he actually had a no-hitter going against the Cardinals, before imploding during a 4-run sixth inning for the game’s deciding runs.

Of note, that start, on April 9, sparked the Reds’ current 5-game slide.

Arroyo will deploy one of the slowest fastballs in baseball, with an average velocity of just 87.2 m.p.h. in each of his last 2 seasons.

Of 85 qualifying pitchers last year, Arroyo’s “heat” ranked fourth-worst.

To compensate, the 36-year-old will rely on a legit 5-pitch (fastball, slider, cutter, curveball and changeup) repertoire, with a pretty good velocity differential for all his off-speed stuff.

But since 2010 against the Phillies, Arroyo has been housed for a 1-2 record and 9.00 ERA in 3 starts. He’s allowed twice as many earned runs (16) has he’s had strikeouts, and nearly as many homers (5).

The one good one? Last year in Citizens Bank Park, where he went 8 deep and allowed just 2 runs.

Lifetime, Chase Ultey (6 for 19), Ryan Howard and Michael Young (both 5 for 16) are .300 hitters against Arroyo, though Howard has struck out 9 times.

Jimmy Rollins, meanwhile, has hit hitting .286 (6 for 21) against him in his career.