Cliff Corcoran breaks down each day's games throughout the postseason.
Series: NLCS, Game 6, Giants lead 3-2Time: 7:30 p.m. ESTTV: FOXStarters:Roy Oswalt (2010 postseason: 1-1, 3.29 ERA; 2010 regular season: 13-13, 2.76 ERA) vs. Jonathan Sanchez (0-1, 2.03 ERA; 13-9, 3.07 ERA)
The two league championship series had some striking similarities this year. Both featured the defending pennant winner facing an underdog team that hadn't been in the postseason for roughly a decade, and both saw that underdog take a 3-1 lead only to lose Game 5. The similarities end there, however. One obvious difference is that, when the wild card Yankees won Game 5, they forced a Game 6 on the road. Yet, when the Phillies won Game 5, they sent the series back home to Philadelphia.
More importantly, though the Yankees did manage a pair of wins, the ALCS wasn't really close. The Rangers outscored the Yankees 38-19 over the six games, and 32-18 over the first five. Meanwhile, in this series, the Phillies have actually outscored the Giants 18-16 in the first five games of this NLCS despite trailing San Francisco 3-2 in games.
That the Giants could hold a 3-2 lead in the series while scoring two fewer runs than the Yankees did in the first five games of the ALCS also tells you how different these two series have been. It's no surprise that the NLCS has been dominated by pitching, though it is somewhat surprising that the powerful Phillies offense has been almost as impotent as the Giants' bailing-wire and chewing-gum attack. The Giants have hit just .220/.279/.323 in this series, the Phillies just .209/.304/.316, giving credence to that old baseball adage that good pitching stops good hitting.
For all the well-deserved hype that has surrounded the two Roy Halladay/Tim Lincecum matchups in this series, the two games that have seen the fewest total runs scored through six innings were Games 2 and 3, both of which saw just three men cross home prior to the seventh frame. Saturday's Game 6 features a rematch of Game 2 starters Roy Oswalt and Jonathan Sanchez, and if the Phillies live to play another day, Game 7 will rematch Game 3's Cole Hamels and Matt Cain.
Oswalt was dominant in Game 2, holding the Giants to three hits and three walks over eight innings, the only San Francisco tally coming on a Cody Ross solo homer (of course) in the fifth. Sanchez largely matched Oswalt for six innings, holding the Phillies to two runs, one unearned, on four hits and three walks while striking out seven, the same total Oswalt had through the first six innings. However, Oswalt drove his opposite number from the game by leading off the seventh with a single, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy collaborated with his bullpen to blow the game open in the Phillies favor as the inning progressed by ordering two intentional walks, both of which came around to score.
The Giants got their revenge on Oswalt in Game 4 when, with the game tied 5-5 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Oswalt hubristically asked for the ball from his manager, Charlie Manuel, despite having already thrown his between-starts bullpen earlier in the day. Oswalt managed to get one out, on a line-drive to right field, before the Giants rallied to win the game and push the Phillies to the brink of elimination.
Oswalt shouldn't have needed a chance to redeem himself, but he does, and he gets that chance Saturday. Counting that relief outing, this will be his seventh appearance against the Giants this year. During the regular season, he turned in four quality starts against San Francisco, three while with the Astros (all losses in which Houston scored a total of four runs) and one at Citizens Bank Park in mid-August. In that last start, he held the Giants to three runs over seven innings while striking out seven against no walks and picking up the win. Two of the runs he allowed in that game scored on solo homers by Jose Guillen, who is not on the Giants' NLCS roster due to neck pain, and Pat Burrell, who has sent more than a few pitches into the left field stands at Citizens Bank over the years. All together, Oswalt has posted a 3.03 ERA in 35 2/3 innings against the Giants this year while striking out 31 men against just six walks (a 5.17 K/BB).
Sanchez has likewise pitched well in three starts against the Phillies this year, two of them coming in the regular season. Sanchez allowed just two runs over 13 innings in those two starts, the more recent being eight dominant innings in San Francisco in August. Add in his Game 2 performance and Sanchez has a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings against Philadelphia this year with 20 strikeouts, but also 10 walks.