As we all anxiously await the time early Sat. evening when arguably one of the best and most-anticipated playoff pitching matchups in post-season history will become a reality, it’s finally starting to set in that the Phillies have made their third consecutive National League Championship Series with relative ease.
While it’s undeniable that the Reds didn’t hit, pitch, and especially field to the best of their ability, it was very clear who was the better team in that series, whether it play on the field or demeanor in the dugout or clubhouse. You don’t have to be a Phillies fan to realize that.
On the other side, the San Francisco Giants will come into their first NLCS since the Barry Bonds era in a similar fashion. In their 4-game series win against the Atlanta Braves, they out-performed an admirable opponent with dominating starting pitching, and while their hitting weren’t necessarily strong, the bats did capitalize when the opportunity presented itself (countless errors by a certain Braves second basemen) to put the series out of reach.
Hmmm, sounds awfully familiar.
With that said, here is the breakdown of the series between the Phillies and Giants.
SCHEDULE WITH STARTING PITCHING PROBABLES
GAME 1 (7:57 PM SATURDAY): Giants ( Tim Lincecum) at Phillies (Roy Halladay)
GAME 2 (8:19 PM SUNDAY): Giants (Jonathan Sanchez) at Phillies (Roy Oswalt)
GAME 3 (4:19 PM TUESDAY): Phillies (Cole Hamels) at Giants (Matt Cain)
GAME 4 (7:57 PM WEDNESDAY): Phillies (Joe Blanton) at Giants (Madison Bumgardner)
GAME 5 (7:57 PM THURSDAY if needed): Phillies (Roy Halladay) at Giants (Tim Lincecum)
GAME 6 (3:57 or 7:57 PM OCTOBER 23RD if needed): Giants (Jonathan Sanchez) at Phillies (Roy Oswalt)
GAME 7: (7:57 PM OCTOBER 24TH if needed: Giants (TBD) at Phillies (TBD)
The men on the mound will dictate the future of both teams of this series. On one side, you have the tandem now known as H20, along with a bullpen that looks to be reverting back to their ’08 form. On the other side, you have a 2-time Cy Young award winning pitcher, and 3 other bright young arms to fill out the rotation. Even Barry Zito, a past Cy Young award winner in his own right, couldn’t make the post-season roster. So, which side will win out? Personally, I would have to go with the team who has a certain pitcher who has both a perfect game and a no-hitter under his belt this year. That’s just me.
This one is a little tough. The Phillies bullpen, which for the most part has been considered their achilles heal for the entire season, has woken up as of late. A huge part of that is because of closer Brad Lidge, who had a blast from the past type of performance in the final two months of the season, only blowing one save in the 2 1/2 months of play after the all-star break. In addition to that, they also seemed to find some stability in terms of left-handed pitching out the bullpen, as both Antonio Bastardo and J.C Romero had a stellar final month or so. However, even though it may not have shown in their NLDS series against the Braves, the Giants, led by their perennial all-star of a closer Brian Wilson, may be the most consistent bullpen from top to bottom remaining out of the playoff teams.
Not even a question here. While Giants do have certain veterans on their team who are used to playoff competition (Juan Uribe, Aaron Rowand, and Edgar Renteria), they struggled mightily as a team at the plate during the Braves series and for that matter the entire season, even with the probable NL ROY Buster Posey, and a re-surging Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff in the lineup. Compare that to a Phillies lineup who, while still struggling a bit in their own right, was amongst the top offenses in all of baseball this year, and clearly is still the more explosive, experienced, and without question better offense in this matchup.
Both teams are well-managed. Both teams have players on their team who have been in this type of playoff atmosphere before. So, what separating them? The Phillies are returning to the NLCS for the third consecutive year, while the Giants have long been on vacation during that time. In the two previous years, we all know the end result with the Phillies. Now, back in the same spot, with arguably their most talented team when comparing them to the prior two, I just don’t see that end result changing.
PREDICTION: Phillies in 6