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Phillies – Giants: Clash of Titans in NLCS

Posted By Christopher Rowe On Oct 14 2010 @ 2:41 pm In Philadelphia Phillies | 3 Comments

Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Francisco Giants. NL East Champs vs. NL West Champs. Quite honestly, the two best overall teams in the National League this season. Their records say so (97 & 92 wins respectively). Their pitching staffs say so (ranked 1&2 in NL). Their NLDS opponents would tell us so (Braves and Reds were each defeated fairly soundly). 

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Phillies have been NL East Champs 2007-2010 and were 2008 champions but they want anothe trip to the World Series.

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Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, playing in Seals Stadium until Candlestick Park opened in 1960

Their fans tell us so (best attendance records in NL for 2010). Both are great baseball cities with a long history as these franchises date back to the infancy of the National League and are emblematic of the story of baseball. Phillies are the longest-standing original franchise having remained a Philadelphia institution since 1883. Giants began as the powerhouse New York Giants over 120 years ago and have legends like

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The Alou Brothers are part of the rich tapestry of NY/SF Giants history

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Barry Bonds came to the Bay in 1993. His father (Bobby Bonds) and godfather (Willie Mays) were landmarks of the franchise a generation earlier.

Durocher, Mays, McGraw, Thompson, Ott, Bonds, Marichal and McCovey, while spanning the country and migrating west to San Francisco 52 years ago.  Finally there are no wildcard entries squeaking past a powerhouse team and trying to get to the World Series on a hot streak and a prayer. These are two modern day titans and it is righteous that they meet in the NLCS as the best the National League can offer in 2010.

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Larry Bowa has coached and managed in the major leagues for 25 years and offers unique perspective on the Giants from his time with the Dodgers

Larry Bowa has dedicated 40 years of his life to baseball and has spent the last three seasons coaching third base for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This makes him uniquely qualified to testify as to the promise and prowess of a Giants-Phillies NLCS. Bowa saw the San Francisco Giants up close in 54 games over these past 3 years. Bowa also pays close attention to the Phillies, the team for which he starred at shortstop from 1970 to 1981 (including the 1980 World Champion Phillies) and then both coached and managed from 2001 to 2004. Bowa is certainly qualified to offer a scouting report on the NLCS.

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1980 World Series: Kansas City Royals v. Philadelphia Phillies. Larry Bowa turns DP.

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National League Championship Series begins Saturday night (we know that MLB should have started the series sooner but that’s an issue for another time) with the Phillies hosting the Giants in Game 1 at Citizens Bank Park. Bowa (speaking as a fan who will be glued to his TV) believes this will be a must-see series, mostly because of the two starting pitching staffs. The Giants’ staff features two-time National League Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, followed by Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner. The Phillies’ staff features likely 2010 Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton.

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Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt were instrumental in the Phillies sweeping the Reds in NLDS

“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen two staffs this deep in the same series,” Bowa said Wednesday. “Their Big Three  are both outstanding. That’s six guys who can shut you down. Their No. 4 guys aren’t exactly chopped liver. I think this could be one of the better series we’ve seen in a while.” Like mostly everyone in baseball, Bowa believes the Game 1 pitching matchup between Lincecum and Halladay could be one for the ages. Lincecum struck out 14 in a two-hit shutout of the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the Division Series. Halladay, of course, no-hit the Cincinnati Reds in the Phils’ playoff opener (2nd no-hitter in postseason, the other being Don Larsen’s 1956 perfect game in World Series). Bowa’s advice to the two offenses: Get Lincecum and Halladay early – or else.

“With Halladay, the scouting report is always to keep him from getting into a rhythm,” Bowa said. “It’s the same thing with Lincecum. If you don’t get to those guys early, they settle in and are really tough. With Lincecum, you can often tell how good he’s going to be early. Sometimes his control can be off.

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Tim Lincecum is two-time defending Cy Young Award winner

“With the Phillies’ pitchers, Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels, you’ve got to try to get them out of the game, but that’s easier said than done. You can’t go up there and take against these guys because they’re all so good at throwing strike one. If you take, you’ll be 0-and-2 all night.”

Bowa believes that lefty Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants’ second starter in their NLCS rotation, could be a key to the series. Sanchez has electric stuff. He threw a no-hitter against San Diego in July 2009. Control has been a problem for Sanchez – he led the NL with 96 walks this season – but lately he has done a better job of harnessing his pitches. Witness his win over Bowa’s Dodgers on September 16: 12 strikeouts, no walks in seven innings. Witness his gem against Atlanta in the Division Series: 11 strikeouts, one walk in 7 1/3 innings.

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Brian Wilson and the SF bullpen could be the difference in this series

“If he’s throwing strikes, he could be a big X-factor,” Bowa said of Sanchez. Bowa believes this will be a pitching-dominated series. He looks for close games. He likes both bullpens, but thinks the Giants are a little deeper in middle relief and believes situational lefty Javier Lopez could be a good weapon against the Phils’ heavy left-handed hitting lineup.

“You can’t sit around and wait for three-run home runs against these staffs,” Bowa said. This means both teams will have to manufacture runs, and Phils have the edge on defense. Bowa knows a thing or two about solid defense and effective pitching winning baseball games.

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Jimmy Rollins needs to be a factor on defense for the Phillies. Rollins has battled injuries throughout 2010

“They [Giants] have a good fielding percentage, but it’s very deceiving,” he said of the Giants’ league-best .988 mark. “They have limited range. They’ll catch it when you hit it to them, but they’re not a great defensive team. You have to create some things against them. You can’t wait for five-hit innings because they’re pitching is too good. Steal some bags. Hit and run. Put the ball in play. Try to take advantage of their lack of range. Make them make plays. That’s why I think it’s important that Jimmy [Rollins] play to his capability in this series. You need to create havoc against the Giants.”

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Buster Posey was a midseason callup and is already a Giants team leader

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Carlos Ruiz is the quiet MVP of this Phillies team

Bowa is very high on Buster Posey, the Giants’ rookie catcher, an offensive AND defensive threat – describing Posey as someone who appears to be a wily veteran. Posey hit .305 and had 67 RBIs in 108 games. He threw out 18-of-57 (32 percent) would-be basestealers. Bowa is also a big fan of Phils catcher Carlos Ruiz, who had a career season, hitting .302 with a .400 on-base percentage and an .847 OPS, third on the team behind Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard.

“Ruiz may be the most underrated player in the league,” Bowa said. “He calls a good game. He’s a tough out. It’s tough to hit eighth, but he does a good job and takes his walks. He’s a good player.”

The Phils outrank the Giants in almost every major offensive category, but that doesn’t mean Phils’ pitchers can lay the ball over the plate. Giants 1B Aubrey Huff (86 RBIs) and SS Juan Uribe (85) are dangerous hitters, and former Phil Pat Burrell (18 HR and 51 RBIs in 96 games) has enjoyed a rebirth since joining the Giants in June.

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Phillies have celebrated a lot in recent years but remain focused on their second World Championship and third World Series appearance in 3 years

“The Phillies have a better lineup and more speed,” Bowa said. “But Huff and Uribe come up big with men on base. Don’t leave a breaking ball in the middle of the plate for Uribe. Believe it or not, Pat is doing a good job. You can pitch to him. Just don’t make a mistake because he still has the ability to hit the ball out – and we’re talking WAY out.”

So who is Bowa picking to win the series?

“I think the Phillies will win, but not in four games,” he said. “I see it going six or seven games. It’s going to be a good one.” The Giants haven’t been to the World Series since 2002 (lost to Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels) and before that 1989 (lost to Oakland in the memorable Earthquake series). The Phillies of course have been to 2 of the past 3 World Series, winning in 2008 and losing to the Yankees in 2009. The Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants split their season series this year 3-3.  

I tend to agree with Bowa. This should be a hard-fought series predicated on pitching, defense and clutch hitting. Bullpens will be taxed in late innings but starting pitching will be paramount to success. PHILLIES WIN IN 6 GAMES.

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1989 World Series was interrupted by a huge earthquake which shook the Bay Area

NLCS Schedule
Phillies vs. Giants (all on FOX) | *if necessary
Game 1: Saturday at Philadelphia, 7:57 p.m.
Game 2: Sunday at Philadelphia, 8:19 p.m.
Game 3: Tuesday at San Francisco, 4:19 p.m.
Game 4: Wednesday at San Francisco, 7:57 p.m.
*Game 5: Thursday at San Francisco, 7:57 p.m.
*Game 6: Saturday at Philadelphia, 3:37 p.m.
*Game 7: Sunday at Philadelphia, 7:57 p.m.

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Media coverage of the Phillies success has been enthusiastic but this NLDS could go 7 games and be VERY closely contested

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Cole Hamels has been very effective in 2010

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