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NLCS Breakdown: Phillies Battle San Fransisco Giants at the Bank and by the Bay

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San Fransisco Giants logo: http://refrigeratorlogic.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/san_francisco_giants_logo_2000.png

 Philadelphia Phillies logo: http://www.wondergy.com/art/logos/phillies_logo.gif

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regular Season Team Comparisons

(Overall National League rankings are in brackets.)

ERA

Giants 3.36 (1st)

Phillies 3.67 (5th)

 

Fielding

Giants .988 (3rd)

Phillies .986 (5th)

 

Batting Average

Phillies .260 (5th)

Giants .257 (7th)

*The teams split the six games they played against each other this season, with each winning two games at their home field.

What could have been more emblematic than Cole Hamels striking out Scott Rolen to end the National League Division Series? Hamels, a maturing man and key member of today's Phillies club. Rolen, the boy who never became king, the symbol of a bygone era. As Philadelphia's team bus pulled away, Cincinnati's “Big Dead Machine” had to be towed from the Great American Ballpark after being swept in the National League Division Series.

The focus now switches to a staff of San Francisco pitchers in the upcoming National League Championship Series. Google Championship + Phillies and multiple page results will be displayed. Conduct a search for Tim Lincecum and you will find images of his hairstyle, as well as information about his Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009. He is a superstar right-hander who blends four different pitches in unpredictable patterns.

Lincecum

“The Freak's” two-hit, fourteen strikeout, performance in game one of the National League Division Series didn't receive much attention. That was because Roy (insert one of numerous nicknames here) Halladay filled highlight shows with his historic no-hitter. Most believe that Halladay will soon take ownership of the 2010 Cy Young as well. Both number one starters accumulated over 200 strikeouts during the regular season. Halladay and Lincecum faced off against each other at last year's All-Star game while Halladay was still with Toronto.

Philadelphia OffenseJayson Werth could be a key factor in the Giants series. Photo: http://media.lehighvalleylive.com/sports_impact/photo/jayson-werth-walk-off-adacc24a886eafa7.jpg

While the Phillies managed just one home run in the NLDS against the Reds, there are two interesting points to keep in mind about Lincecum. The Phillies lead all major league teams with eight home runs against him in his career. Ryan Howard leads all major league players in having hit three of those eight bombs himself.

Jayson Werth could also play a key role against Giant's pitchers. If productive, he can help to regularly keep the offensive pressure turned on. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz have also had clutch playoff performances over the years. Placido Polanco's elbow is hopefully healthy enough for him to keep playing. The entire lineup, including Ibanez and Victorino, need to be more productive in this series. San Francisco is unlikely to hand them as many runs as the Reds did.

Philadelphia Rotation

Hamels is revived this season and could dominate a sporadic offense. Roy Oswalt had a hiccup in an NLDS start that was similar to his Phillies debut against the Nationals. Expect this playoff veteran to rebound. Joe Blanton, while not possessing the same level of talent as the rest of the staff, is pitching in his third playoff season in Philadelphia. “Kentucky Joe” has performed under playoff pressure before and should put his team in position to win the game he starts on the West Coast.

Jumping The Gun

If Halladay does his part and helps stop the Giants and Cliff Lee assists in besting the Yankees, discussion points involving Halladay and Lee will again emerge in a World Series dream scene. Neither BALCO, nor Barry Bonds would be needed to inject steroids into that renewed debate.

San Francisco Rotation

The Giants feature another righty in Matt Cain  and two lefties in Jonathan Sanchez  and rookie Madison Bumgarner. Cain (27) and Sanchez (21) have combined to win 48 games during the last two seasons. Sanchez, who can be erratic, can also be very effective. He previously threw a no-hitter on July 11, 2009. Bumgarner pitched impressively in the closeout game against the Braves and should benefit in confidence from doing so.

Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, and closer Brian Wilson form a solid bullpen that helped the Giants win the NL West. This relief corps also played a key role in helping to win the series against the Braves, as four one-run games were played. All-Star closer Wilson saved 48 games in the regular season and tacked on two more in the NLDS. The Phillies have hit well against the Giants at home, but not on the road, so early runs would avoid allowing their bullpen to become a factor.

San Francisco Offense

If the Giants can at least split in Philadelphia, with the next three games being scheduled at AT& T Park, this series could become a challenging one for the Phillies.

Regarding the Giant's lineup, let's start with left fielder Pat Burrell. Our former friend was released by Tampa Bay in May. He then signed with the Giants and went on to hit 18 home runs in the regular season.

Burrell has taken the fifth spot in a lineup that has productive first baseman Aubrey Huff hitting third and standout rookie catcher Buster Posey batting cleanup. The infield is rounded out by second baseman Freddy Sanchez, and shortstops Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria. The role of third baseman Pablo Sandoval  is unclear, as he was benched in the NLDS.

While he hits in the lower part of the order, Cody Ross has always been aAaron Rowand: Hard Baller. Photo by http://www.drunkenbleachers.com/images/blog/rowand.jpg Phillie-killer. This former Marlin patrols right field. His production, along with that of switch-hitting center fielder Andres Torres, has relegated former-Phillie Aaron Rowand to part-time work. Rowand left Philadelphia in December, 2007, when he signed a five-year $60 million contract.

Rowand will always be known for completing the quotes of former Eagle Ricky Waters in regards to his "face smashing-game saving" catch against the Mets in May 2006. When asked why he ran into the center field wall and broke his nose to make a catch, Rowand replied, “For who? My teammates. For what? To win.” This play is arguably known as the moment that turned the once "laidback" Phillies into the "never say die" powerhouse that you see today. Rowand didn't stay around long enough to see the Phillies win it all, but much like Dave Cash in the 1970's, he left an undeniable mark on a future championship team.

Giants Manager Bruce Bochy

Bochy, who began his managerial career with the Padres in 1995, has been in charge of the Giants since 2006. However, he's best known to die-hard Phillies fans for one significant moment as a member of the Astros in the 1980 NLCS- considered to be one of the most dramatic in baseball history with four extra-inning contests. During the fourth game, Pete Rose scored what proved to be the winning run in the top of the tenth inning by smashing his arm against Bochy's head in a violent collision at the plate.

Playoff History

While the Phillies and the Giants hPat Burrell leading the 2008 World Series Parade. Photo: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3293/2993573120_19a8364331.jpgave never met in in the playoffs, they came close to doing so in 1993. A Dodgers victory against them on the last day of the season knocked them out of playoff contention in the final year of the two division format in the National League. The Giants won 103 games, but went home. The Phillies went 4-8 against the Giants that year, so who knows how they would have fared in the NLCS if they faced the Giants instead of the Braves. The last time the Giants won the World Series was in 1954 when they were still playing in New York. World Series apperances in 1962, 1989, and 2002 all ended in losses.

The Phillies have appeared in the playoffs in thirteen different seasons since they first began play in 1883. Of course, the last time the Phillies won the World Series was 2008, with Burrell acting as Grand Marshal of the victory parade.

Many media outlets, including the MLB Network, are understandably promoting the Giants many strengths. Their pitching is deep and they played in a better division then the defeated Reds. The Phillies lack of reliable left-handed relief could be exposed if close games occur. Because both team's hitting and fielding statistics are arguably comparable, Philadelphia's previous playoff experience doesn't necessarily increase their chances of victory in this series.

Only four years into this historic playoff run, the Phillies are continuing their march to 10,000 thrills, helping to neutralize the 10,000 losses the organization had been known for. But if they are striving to become one of the best teams in National League history, more World Series titles will have to be won. So, while pitching will earn accolades in this series, an old friend might just reemerge: their bats.

A Philadelphia lineup that has seen more starting pitcher post-game interviews this season than offense, could be ready to hear their bats start talking 2008 again. If their pitching holds up as advertised, and they smack enough balls over the fences on both coasts, that could prove to be the difference. One key home run from either team has the potential to be the turning point in the series.

Prediction: Phillies in six

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After college, Sean O'Brien worked in the front office for the Phillies former Triple-A team in Scranton.  He went on to write professionally during the next few decades and is currently a teacher in the great state of Pennsylvania.  He can often be seen, with a variety of family and friends, in one of Philadelphia's great sports stadiums.

You can contact Sean at seanboru68@yahoo.com