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October 22, 2010

Playoff Prospectus

NLCS Game Five

by Tommy Bennett

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It’s funny how much weight we give recent performance. Going into Game One of the NLCS in Philadelphia, the excitement and hype surrounding the titanic clash of Tim Lincecum (twice over the reigning Cy Young winner!) and Roy Halladay (perfect game and playoff no-hitter!) was fevered. Each had pitched brilliantly in his respective NLDS, and it was largely on that basis that expectations were ramped up last Saturday. Matching up again just five days later, Lincecum and Halladay faced considerably lower expectations on Thursday evening. Neither was as sensational in Game One as he was in his first post-season start, but I’d like to think we’re better than basing our entire set of expectations on one game’s performance. If anything, Game Five on Thursday night featured one of this generation’s most dominant pitchers with his back against the wall in the postseason for the first time and Halladay helped the Phillies beat the Giants 4-2 to stay alive as they now trail the series 3-2.

Compare the component numbers for Halladay and Lincecum in Games One and Five, and you’ll see they both pitched rather well in each:

 

Lincecum

IP

BB

K

HR

GB

Game One

7

3

8

2

7

Game Five

7

1

7

0

8

 

Halladay

IP

BB

K

HR

GB

Game One

7

0

7

2

10

Game Five

6

2

5

0

9

 

But Game Five just wasn’t a fitting end to a series that had been so highly anticipated. Its storylines were wild and crazy, but not in the fun Omar Gooding way. A woman in a giant hat festooned with a city and wearing a campy, sequined red dress was given airtime on Fox. The Phillies took the lead on what could only be scored a 2-5-3 sac bunt, but might just as easily—and more correctly—have been scored a foul ball. There were egregious baserunning mistakes by both teams (when run expectancy tables conspire with Tim McCarver’s wisdom to advise you not to make the final out at third base, listen). 

After the first few innings, Lincecum settled into a groove—retiring 11 straight at one point—while Halladay continued to get dinked and struggled to harness his command. Halladay surpassed the 100-pitch mark in the sixth inning as it became clear he didn’t have a good feel for many of his pitches. He had plenty of movement on his split-finger change and his curveball, but he wasn’t locating either of his fastballs as well as he typically can, and he didn’t have his top velocity (he sat mostly 88-89 mph, according to Pitch F/X).

It thus fell to the Phillies bullpen, given only the benefit of a one-run lead, to get through the Giants lineup for the final nine outs. It’s at times like these that you question the wisdom of batting three righties—Buster Posey, Pat Burrell, and Cody Ross—four through six. The result, when Ryan Madson replaced J.C. Romero to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning, was relatively predictably, as Madson struck out the side against (you guessed it!) Posey, Burrell, and Ross.

The combination of Jose Contreras, Romero, Madson, and Brad Lidge pitched a combined three innings with five strikeouts and zero walks. Jayson Werth added an extra run with a solo home run in the top of the ninth to give the Phillies a two-run lead. With the exception of that solo shot to Werth, the bullpens did their job and held the opposing team to just a handful of hits. What this series has come down to, when it has really come down to it, has been starting pitching. That’s how it will most likely finish up in Philadelphia, given the close nature of each of the games so far.

One of the big questions going forward is who will play third base for the Giants. Pablo Sandoval performed reasonably well in Game Five, but had some errant throws from third base. It’s not entirely clear that Mike Fontenot would be an enormous defensive upgrade given his unfamiliarity with the position.  With Jonathan Sanchez set to start Game Six and Matt Cain a potential Game Seven, it is safe to assume that few ground balls will be induced and strikeouts from both sides may be plentiful.

Going forward, the Giants still maintain an advantage—what team winning a series 3-2 doesn’t?—but they do so with the much more tangible risk that they will face a potential Game Seven showdown between Cole Hamels and Cain, one that likely favors Hamels taking into account their performance in both the postseason and the regular season. Hamels is odd since his platoon splits appear to be reversed (and in fact he has a superior K/BB ratio against righties—3.85—than he does against the lefties—3.00). This does not bode especially well for a Giants lineup filled with right-handed batters in the heart of the order. Whether the Phillies pitching staff, and the Giants lineup, is up to that challenge remains to be seen.

Related Content:  The Clash

23 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Tynan

I really thought the Giants had a fantastic approach against Halladay last night, especially for a team that will never be awarded high marks for their pitch-taking acumen.

Oct 22, 2010 07:49 AM
rating: 1
 
Tommy Bennett

As soon as Pablo Sandoval had a 10-pitch at bat I started wondering what was going on.

Oct 22, 2010 09:00 AM
rating: 0
 
SamHughes

A little surprising that there's no mention of Halladay's groin pull here. He certainly wasn't dominant last night--and didn't seem to have good command of his pitches *before* he strained it in the second. But that he he pitched as well as he did with a strained groin almost defies belief. Certainly explains why he looked so grim, even angry, all night.

Oct 22, 2010 08:05 AM
rating: 2
 
Tynan

I thought the anger was directed towards the men in blue...

Oct 22, 2010 08:13 AM
rating: 1
 
SamHughes

I'm sure a lot of it was. But he's usually able to keep his emotions in check a little better than that. Dealing with an injury with that much on the line had to have affected his mood.

Oct 22, 2010 08:25 AM
rating: 0
 
rcrary

what was the baserunning mistake made by the Phillies last night?

Oct 22, 2010 08:13 AM
rating: 0
 
SamHughes

I was wondering about that, too. If he's talking about Chooch getting thrown out at the plate, I'd have to respectfully disagree. That took a perfect throw by Rowand and an amazing scoop/trap/whatever by Posey. I'd take that chance every time in that situation, and if he's out I tip my hat to the Giants.

Oct 22, 2010 08:34 AM
rating: 0
 
rcrary

well, I wouldn't have sent him, but in any event, that was in the previous game

Oct 22, 2010 08:50 AM
rating: 0
 
SamHughes

Oops. My brain got thrown out at the plate, by a mile.

Oct 22, 2010 09:13 AM
rating: 0
 
kmbart

I love me some Chooch, but Perlozzo must have been down in Haight-Ashbury all afternoon to think that his slow-footed catcher could score on that play. (Unless he thought Huff was going to bail him out again by cutting off the throw or that Victorino's double-clutch was contagious...)

Oct 22, 2010 12:44 PM
rating: 0
 
Tommy Bennett

I'd note Halladay's failure to run out a bunt attempt.

Oct 22, 2010 08:59 AM
rating: 0
 
antoine6

Again, the guy pulled a groin.

Oct 22, 2010 09:05 AM
rating: 2
 
hessshaun

Agreed with the groinal reply. Also, I really think that had Halladay hauled it to first, Posey could have made a cleaner play to third. While I realize he is not nimble, Panda may have instantly went back to the bag as opposed to standing on the line and looking like he was waiting for his bundle of bamboo.

Oct 22, 2010 09:30 AM
rating: 0
 
smitty

Further, that ball was incredibly foul. Not close. And Halladay had the best view of it. That was an umpire mistake, not a baserunning mistake. I'm glad Halladay didn't aggravating his injury by running on that play.

Technically, it was a mistake by Halladay by not running but it was really understandable and overall a good thing for the Phillies. It advanced the runners and kept Halladay from having to run the bases.

Oct 22, 2010 13:01 PM
rating: 1
 
kantsipr

Even further yet, that ball should have been an out at 3rd and probably a double play. If he runs, it seems to me the umpire was more likely to screw up the call, so it was at least defensible not to run. (That he screwed it up anyway wasn't his fault.) Once the runner was ruled safe at 3rd, it was better to pretend that it was fair and head to 1st and get a free sacrifice awarded to him.

Oct 22, 2010 13:40 PM
rating: 0
 
j11forbes

Why is it odd that Hamels has a reverse platoon split?

I thought this was common amongst left-handed changeup artists. The changeup is supposed to be easier to hit lefty-on-lefty as compared to righty-on-lefty.

See: Santana, Johan

Oct 22, 2010 08:48 AM
rating: 1
 
Tommy Bennett

You are correct, and it's only odd in the context of all lefties.

Oct 22, 2010 08:59 AM
rating: 0
 
tweicheld

I think Madson deserves credit for what he did in the 8th, rather than blaming it on the Giants' "right-handedness". He fanned three of their biggest threats (including the unconscious Ross), and he made it look easy. When Madson's on, he's clearly one of the best setup guys in MLB. Credit also to Javier Lopez, who's almost completely shut down Utley and Howard in this series (Howard did double off him in Game 4). I didn't know if Halladay was just having an off night, but it was clear something was up with the lack of hard stuff and falling behind so many hitters.

Oct 22, 2010 10:00 AM
rating: 2
 
bflaff1

Halladay apparently changed up his piching repetoire because he couldn't throw his 2 seamer properly. Threw loads of change-ups and curveballs.

Groin strain, presumably.

Oct 22, 2010 10:31 AM
rating: 0
 
kritik1

McCarver's comment about getting thrown out at third was simply repeating a favorite cliché. That rally was probably going nowhere anyway and BB would probably have ended up sending one of the shakier relievers out there in place of Lincecum. The error was actually running on Werth, not necessarily the idea of running.

Oct 22, 2010 13:03 PM
rating: 0
 
bflaff1

Ross is so on fire that he probably has the confidence to try anything and expect it to work. I think the thought bubble above his head as he slid was, "This eye black makes me invisible."

Oct 22, 2010 14:21 PM
rating: 0
 
kritik1

Great comment!

Oct 22, 2010 17:57 PM
rating: 0
 
MMRHoW

You mean it doesn't? Well that was a waste of $5

Oct 22, 2010 22:10 PM
rating: 0
 
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