Thursday October 21st, 2010

Cliff Corcoran breaks down each day's games throughout the postseason.

Series: NLCS, Game 5, Giants lead 3-1 Time: 7:30 p.m. EST TV: FOX Starters: Roy Halladay (2010 postseason: 1-1, 2.25 ERA; 2010 regular season: 21-10, 2.44 ERA) vs. Tim Lincecum (2-0, 1.69 ERA; 16-10, 3.43 ERA)

Roy Halladay against Tim Lincecum with the pennant on the line. You can't ask for much more than that. Sure, fans without a rooting interest in this series might have preferred a 2-2 tie at this point. That would have whittled this series down to a best-of-three with each team's top three starters set to pitch the final three games, but it's hard to complain about the increased stakes of this rematch of the two aces.

Lincecum got the better of Halladay in Game 1 in Philadelphia, but while the two combined to strikeout 15 men against two walks in 14 innings, neither was at his best. Both pitched seven innings in that game, allowed more than a baserunner per inning, and gave up a pair of home runs.

Halladay has allowed nine runs in 14 innings against the Giants this year. His only regular season start against them came at AT&T Park in April with backup catcher Eli Whiteside, the since-injured Mark DeRosa and John Bowker, since traded for lefty reliever Javier Lopez, getting several of the key hits. Lincecum, meanwhile, was better on the road than at home this year for the third time in his four major league seasons, though the difference wasn't dramatic. In two starts against the Phillies this year, he has a 2.93 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings.

To no one's surprise, this has been a series dominated by pitching. As a team, the Phillies have hit just .216/.317/.328, the Giants .223/.287/.338. Both teams have scored 14 runs, averaging 3.5 per game, and there has been just one home run in the last three games (by Cody Ross, who homered twice off Halladay in Game 1). On that front, the Giants had to be encouraged by the performances of Posey and Aubrey Huff in Game 4. The two combined to go 7-for-10 on Wednesday, two of those hits being Posey doubles, at long last giving the Giants a big performance at the plate by someone other than Ross.

A long-time American Leaguer, Huff has faced Halladay far more than any other Giant, though he has hit just .261/.316/.275 against him in 76 plate appearances, including a Game 1 single. The Phillies have some more encouraging matchups against Lincecum. Ryan Howard has hit .318/.400/.864 with three home runs in 25 PA, and Jayson Werth's Game 1 homer was his second off Lincecum in 13 career plate appearances over which he has hit .364/.462/.909.

Of course, there's always the chance that Halladay and Lincecum will cancel each other out and leave the game in the hands of the bullpens. If that happens, the Giants have the advantage, not only because they'll have last licks, which served them well on Wednesday night, but because the Phillies ace set-up man Ryan Madson threw 32 pitches in Game 4 and righty Chad Durbin threw 38. No one is unavailable in a potential elimination game; heck, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel used Roy Oswalt out of the 'pen on his throw-day in Game 4 albeit with disastrous results. Still, Madson hadn't thrown 32 pitches in a game since September 2008, and even if his availability or effectiveness isn't diminished by that stressful outing, his ability to give the Phillies more than an inning of work likely will be. Durbin is more accustomed to the heavy workload, though seeing as he gave up two runs in his one frame and effectively cost the Phillies the game, he may be something of a last resort tonight anyway. The only Giant reliever to throw more than 16 pitches on Wednesday was Santiago Casilla, who threw 30, but he, like Durbin, is used to such a heavy load.

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