The World Series is around the corner at this point, and with the ALCS taking an off day for travel purposes, the lone game on the docket could very well be the last the Phillies play this season. The Giants took a commanding 3-1 lead in the NLCS on Wednesday night in a game filled with questionable managerial decisions from Charlie Manuel and good ones from Giants skipper Bruce Bochy. Prior to the game, most thought it made more sense to send Roy Halladay to the hill than Joe Blanton given that, well, that is why the likely Cy Young Award winner was brought to Philadelphia.
In New York, the Yankees used the longball to back CC Sabathia and force a sixth game. Sabathia was not as sharp as his pitching line would indicate, but he really didn’t need to be as the offense finally woke up and shouldered the load. Sending Andy Pettitte to the hill against Colby Lewis on Saturday, the Yankees are holding out hope they can push the series to its final game. Of course, they would have to face Cliff Lee, at home, with their season on the line if it gets to that point. Though arguments could be made that watching the World Series at home would be more fun than facing Lee, who knows what could happen if those Yankee bats stay awake.
Phillies @ Giants: Giants lead 3-1
Projected Runs: Giants 3.99, Phillies 3.69
Odds: Giants 53%, Phillies 47%
Matchup: Roy Halladay (PHI) vs. Tim Lincecum (SFG)
Oh, the decision. While Charlie Manuel’s choice of Blanton as his Game Four starter was not met with as much publicity as Lebron James’s television special, it received almost as much criticism. In one corner, Manuel had Halladay, the best pitcher in the NL this season, who has pitched on short rest in the past, and who came to the Phillies for no other reason than to pitch in big games. In the other corner sat Blanton, who hadn’t thrown a meaningful pitch since September 29, and who is very obviously worse than Halladay, even at 75 percent.
For whatever reason, be it a lack of confidence in Halladay’s ability to throw with one day fewer to rest his golden arm, or a supreme amount of confidence in Blanton after watching him throw simulated at-bats to Greg Dobbs, Manuel went with the latter starting pitcher. Though we have no idea how Halladay would have fared, Blanton did not make it out of the fifth inning, and while he didn’t look awful on the hill, the Phillies needed more from a starter than to simply not look awful given how putrid their offense had looked. Going with Blanton and then removing him in the fifth inning also meant that the Phillies would have to use the more hittable parts of their bullpen. Something tells me that Halladay would have lasted at least seven innings, so the effect is more than just evaluating one starter against another, straight up.
The Giants were able to survive an equally shaky performance from Madison Bumgarner by properly utilizing their bullpen. Buster Posey absolutely owned the Phillies, and the Giants added timely hits while taking advantage of Phillies mistakes. In other words, the Giants did everything the Phillies had become known for over the last two postseasons. The walk-off sac-fly win puts the Giants firmly in the driver's seat entering Thursday night's matchup with their two-time defending Cy Young Award winner on the mound.
Yes, this is Halladay-Lincecum II, but on the Giants turf this time around. Both pitchers were mortal in Game One, but this game has much more important implications. A Giants win sends the team into the World Series for the first time since 2002, while a win from the road Phillies would send the series back to Philadelphia, with Oswalt-Sanchez and Hamels-Cain lined up. Coming back from a 3-1 deficit isn’t unprecedented, but it is certainly unlikely, and the Phillies face the tall task of having to hit Lincecum.
PECOTA sees the matchup as essentially even, with a slight edge to the Giants given the home-field advantage. Most pundits have noted that the Giants now have to beat one of Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels to advance, while conveniently forgetting that the Phillies poor-of-late offense has to beat all of Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, and Matt Cain to make their third straight World Series appearance. The Giants have outplayed the Phillies in every conceivable aspect of baseball so far, and have to feel very comfortable that one of their “big three” can beat the two-time defending Senior Circuit champs.
Ryan Howard has been swinging the bat well lately, so my key matchup will be how he fares against Lincecum. PECOTA has never liked Howard’s chances against Lincecum, as a high strikeout pitcher meeting a high strikeout hitter apparently results in an explosion of whiffs. On the other side, Pat Burrell against Halladay is intriguing. Burrell hasn’t hit all that much so far but he has continued to show just how patient he can be at the plate. Halladay doesn’t walk anyone and Burrell walks a ton. Something will have to give, and if Halladay makes a mistake in trying to be too fine with a patient hitter, no park can contain Burrell’s power.
Mark me down as disagreeing with PECOTA here, as my Seidjection has the Phillies winning, forcing a Game Six.