I'm back folks. Sorry for the delay, college really does make you lazy. But i have been driven from my slumber due to the unsettling nature of the usually always settled nature of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Phillies began this postseason by taking care of business as usual. They took advantage of the Cincinnati Reds' misplay and rallied behind excellent starting pitching to complete the first postseason series sweep in franchise history. It seemed like a fitting start to an inevitably historic finale.
Almost all of the ESPN experts picked the Phils to win the National League, the city had rallied behind the team as usual, and round one of the playoffs went off without a hitch. Everyone seemed to think that the Phillies' destiny had already been written. Everyone, that is, except the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants believe in a destiny of their own, and are proving to the country that they deserved more respect than they were given coming into this postseason. For all that has been made up of the Phillies Big 3 starting pitchers (Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels) the Giants starter's (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Johnathan Sanchez) ERA was actually better than the Phillies during the month of September. This is a team that is, if not better, at least equal to the Phillies in starting pitching.
The large discrepancy between these two teams is the hitting. The Phillies scored almost one hundred runs more in the regular season than the Giants did, and no one in the San Francisco lineup this year batted above .300, hit 30 home runs, or had 100 RBI's.
In fact, in the postseason this year, the Giants haven't scored more than 3 runs in any of their wins. The Phillies are averaging about 4 runs a game this postseason, which tells you everything you need to know about this series. If the Phillies do what they do on a regular basis, they will win.
But the Phillies haven't been doing that. Shane Victorino and Chase Utley have failed to deliver in clutch situations throughout the series and Raul Ibanez has been a ghost. Ryan Howard has seemingly lost his ability to hit postseason home runs and Jayson Werth continues to look like a hero at the plate in one game, and a confused bystander at the plate in the next.
In game three of the NLCS, Matt Cain consistently threw fastballs for strikes right by the Phillies hitters.
"When he throws that fastball, it just freezes you," said Jimmy Rollins, who was mic'ed for sound for Fox.
Where is the hunger in the offense that has defined the past two postseason runs? The lineup in game three was not the same aggressive lineup that won the World Series for the Phils in 2008 when our starting rotation consisted of Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, and Joe Blanton. With our Big 3 assembled now, our lineup only has to be nearly as good as it was two years ago, but it has failed to accomplish even that feat.
Game four matches Blanton up against Madison Baumgarner, a young left-hander who the Phillies have never faced before. This is the marquee matchup of the series. If Blanton is able to pull out a victory, the Phillies will have Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels lined up to win a three game series. Given the Phillies history of supplying run support for weaker pitchers, i think it is safe to say that they will extract some of the offensive aggressiveness that has allowed them to be successful for the past two years.
If they fail, the Giants will be ready to capitalize, and the Phillies will be wondering what happened.