Pitching should continue to define Giants-Phils in Game 2 and beyond

Publish date:

NLCS, Game 2, Giants lead 1-0Time: 8:00 p.m. ESTTV: FOXStarters: Jonathan Sanchez (0-0, 1.23 ERA; 13-9, 3.07 ERA) vs. Roy Oswalt (0-0, 5.40 ERA; 13-13, 2.76 ERA)

The Giants have yet to score more than four runs in a game this postseason, yet five games in, they are 4-1 and now hold an early lead over the mighty Phillies in the NLCS. That's a credit to their pitching staff, which has allowed just 2.4 runs per game and more than three runs just once in those five contests, each of which has been decided by just one run.

The Giants' 4-3 win in Game 1 was just the second game San Francisco has played all postseason in which the Giants and their opponents combined for more than five runs, and just the second the Phillies have played in which they and their opponents combined for more than four runs.

Don't expect a radical departure from that pattern any time soon. As powerful as the Phillies' offense is, it has averaged just four runs per game this postseason, only once scoring more than that average, while their pitchers have yet to allow more than four runs in any of their four postseason games. The worst pitching performance the Phillies have received thus far came from Oswalt in Game 2 of the NLDS. Oswalt wasn't sharp in that game, but still held the Reds to just four runs (three earned) over five innings, while the Phillie bullpen has yet to allow a run this postseason (though it has only been deployed twice).

It's unclear what the Phillies should expect from Oswalt tonight. He has had eight days off since his five-inning outing in the NLDS, and tonight will be just his second start since September 28, 19 days ago. Prior to the division series, Oswalt had only started on more than five-day's rest once this season, that coming in his first start after the All-Star break, and he had to leave that game early after being hit by a comebacker. In 2009, he made two strong starts on six-day's rest, but was lit-up on 13-day's rest after skipping a pair of starts due to a sore back.

Sanchez, by comparison, is pitching on a more reasonable six day's rest, which is exactly how much rest he had going into his Game 3 start in the NLDS, when he held the Braves to one run on two hits and a walk over 7 1/3 innings while striking out 11. That start included, Sanchez has posted a 1.06 ERA over his last eight turns, only once allowing as many as two earned runs over that span. He has also pitched well in two starts against the Phillies this year, allowing just two runs in 13 innings while striking out 13, most recently dominating them for eight innings at Citizen's Bank Park on August 19.

Oswalt was every bit as good in his final eight regular season starts, posting an 0.98 ERA, but that run ended nearly 20 days ago. Oswalt has faced the Giants four times already this season, turning in a quality start every time, thrice lasting seven innings, twice allowing just two runs, and twice striking out seven men against no walks, but he might have to be at least that good to beat Sanchez tonight.