Home run hitters may rack up the big bucks, and high-scoring slugfests will keep the seats filled, but when baseball enters the postseason, pitchers usually take center stage, and any runs scored will be few and far between.
With six of the best hurlers in baseball, including two coming off legendary performances, there is no reason to think that the Giants-Philadelphia Phillies matchup in the National League Championship Series will change that playoff tradition.
Of all the hotly anticipated pitching matchups for the NLCS, nothing tops the titanic showdown for Saturday’s Game 1, when Roy “Doc” Halladay faces off against Tim “The Freak” Lincecum.
After waiting 13 long years to make the postseason, Halladay tossed a no-hitter against a stacked Cincinnati Reds lineup in the opener of the National League Division Series, only the second no-no in postseason history. Lincecum nearly topped the Doc, striking out 14 while allowing just two hits in the Giants’ 1-0 victory over the Braves on Oct. 7.
Collectively, the two aces have garnered three Cy Young Awards, with Lincecum winning the last two in the NL, although Halladay is expected to end Lincecum’s run this year with his 21-win campaign.
“This is going to be one of the best matchups in the major leagues,” Giants outfielder Cody Ross said. “Halladay and Lincecum were both near-perfect in their last outings.”
If those stars were the sole draws in the series, the pitching in the NLCS would still be a highlight. However, the two right-handers are supported by fellow starters who would be aces on just about any other team in the majors.</p>
The Phillies’ No. 2 and No. 3 guys, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, are postseason veterans who combined to win 25 games this year. Oswalt, who came over in a midseason trade from Houston, posted a sparkling 1.74 ERA in 13 games with the Phillies.
Hamels won 13 games, posted a 3.06 ERA, and can draw on postseason experience that includes an MVP trophy from the 2008 World Series.
The Giants’ supporting characters are equally impressive. Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain finished 13th and 15th in the NL in ERA respectively, and both pitched flawlessly in their postseason debuts against the Braves.
The left-hander Sanchez, normally the Giants’ No. 3 starter, will start Game 2 in Philadelphia, a move Giants manager Bruce Bochy said was designed to make the Phillies face both a lefty and righty in the series’ first two games.
As good as the six pitchers were in the regular season, they’ve stepped up their exploits to ridiculous heights in the postseason. Other than the postseason veteran Oswalt, who gave up three runs in five innings in his Game 2 NLDS start, the five other starters have combined to surrender one run in 41 innings for a collective ERA of 0.22.
Despite all the hype surrounding the dream pitching matchups of the NLCS, Cain said he and his fellow hurlers wouldn’t focus on the Phillies’ starters.
“We’re just worried about getting their guys out,” Cain said. “That’s what we’re concerned about.”
Giants’ first baseman Aubrey Huff, however, said that pitching will be the focus of the series, and San Francisco fans can expect more low-scoring, gut-wrenching affairs.
“This is all about the pitching,” Huff said. “I’m sure this will be more torture.”