Saturday, October 16, 2010

Giants vs. Phillies, Initial Thoughts

So, the Giants start the League Championship Series tonight against the vaunted Philadelphia Phillies.  Billed as the battle of the aces, pitting Tim Lincecum against Roy Halliday, both coming off arguably their best performances of the season, game 1 holds the potential to be a pitchers duel for the ages.  But the series itself seems just as likely to be over quickly, ending another San Francisco season in disappointment and recriminations.

The last time they made it this far, the Giants defeated the St. Louis Cardinals and advanced to the 2002 World Series.  That was a completely different team, with a somewhat better than average starting pitching staff, a flawed bullpen and a dynamic, powerful offense.  Ultimately, though, they failed due primarily to appallingly poor game management by Dusty Baker.  Today's version is noted for the starting rotation, but it's real advantage is a stellar bullpen that can keep good hitters at bay in the later innings.  However, the problem all year has been offense.  With desperately low run production, the pitchers have no margin for error, and have often found themselves feeling that they have to be perfect with every pitch, only to lose 1-0 or 2-1.

The Phillies are the better team, and by all rights should win the series.  Their starting rotation is every bit as good as the Giant's, and although the Giants can take comfort in their superior bullpen, Philadelphia has good hitters up and down their lineup.  They just have to be patient and they'll score some runs, while the Giants will have to pitch nearly perfectly AND find a way to score runs.  They'll have to try to get into the Phillies bullpen and see if they can catch a break.

The key is the three games in the middle, the ones back here at AT&T Park.  The weather and dimensions in San Francisco goes a long way towards eliminating the power of the Phillies hitters.  If the Giants can open the series with a split in Philadelphia, they have a chance to end it in San Francisco.  But it will all come down to runs - torture is not a winning strategy.

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