Even the baseball experts didn't see this coming.
All across America, the analysts were sure that the Phillies would dominate the Giants at Citizen's Bank Park. It was all too predictable. Phillies would go up 2-0, Giants would win a couple to make it 2-2 or 3-2, and the Phillies would take the series when it got back to Philly. Not so fast, this is no ordinary Giants team.
The Phillies saw first hand that even them as defending National League Champions cannot look ahead. If they want to move on to the World Series for the third straight year, they got a force to reckon with first.
The Giants made a statement early against Phillies ace Roy Halladay, who threw a no-hitter in the NLDS. In the third inning, Cody Ross silenced any thoughts of a no-hitter, as he belted a solo home-run to left, giving the Giants a 1-0.
The Phillies would respond in the very next inning against Tim Lincecum. Carlos Ruiz, in the bottom of the third, exchanged solo-home runs with Ross, an opposite field shot that tied the game at 1.
The Giants would forge ahead once again in the top of the fifth inning. With 1 out, Ross came up once again and smacked another solo home run to left, his second of the game. Just like that, the Giants had the lead back at 2-1.
In the top of the sixth, the Giants would pad their lead, although it would be a short-lived cushion. With 2 outs, Posey singled to right center. That brought up Pat Burrell, who crushed a deep fly ball to left-center. The ball appeared to be ticketed for the bleachers, but it went for a RBI double, as Raul Ibanez could not make the catch in left field. The Giants were up 3-1 and would make it 4-1 on a Juan Uribe RBI single.
Then came the Phillies.
In the bottom of the sixth, Jayson Werth hit an opposite-field homer to right, cutting the Giants' lead to 4-3. Then, the Giants' bullpen went to work after Lincecum retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh.
In the bottom of the eighth, Javier Lopez induced a ground ball to second off the bat of Chase Utley. He would then strike out Ryan Howard. With two outs, Wilson was summoned in for the four out save, which he nailed beautifully, striking out 4 of 5 hitters he faced.
Tim Lincecum outdueled Roy Halladay to pick up the win. In his seven innings of work, he allowed 3 runs on 6 hits, while striking out 8 and walking 3.
Like so many times this year, the Giants silenced the naysayers, and they will be happy to do it again in Game 2 of the NLCS.
I have to give Brian Sabean credit for what he did. His acquisitions this year, unlike past years, have actually panned out. Cody Ross, who has proven to be just a ball player, hit two homers today. The funny thing is that Sabean only claimed Ross off waivers to block the Padres from getting him. Luck would have it, he would be on the post-season roster hitting big home runs in the playoffs. Javier Lopez, another mid-season acquisition, got out two tough lefties in the eighth and has not allowed a hit to a lefty yet.
Tim Lincecum also showed why he was an ace tonight. Even though he did not have his best stuff and had a terrible strike zone to work with, he still found a way to get it done. He did not have fastball command, nor his slider, but he still used that changeup of his to get key outs when he needed them. His two mistakes, two high fastballs, both left the yard, but at AT&T Park, those fly-balls would have either been caught or off the wall. More impressively, when the score became 4-3, Lincecum was at his best, especially in the seventh where he somehow regained that fastball command in combaniation with his lethal changeup.
This win was huge for the Giants. Not only did it silence the crowd, and I mean you can hear a pin-drop after the Phillies lost, but it also made a statement for the Giants. Nationally and locally in Philly, the Giants were written off as the weaker team. It was already a foregone conclusion that the Giants were going to lose the series and both games in Philadelphia. Not so fast, as the Giants grabbed the early momentum and are in a good position to win the series, perhaps even at home at AT&T Park. The Giants basically eliminated the Phillies' home-field advantage with the win, as the Giants are up 1-0 with 3 left in San Francisco and 3 in Philadelphia.
This and That
The Giants are now 4-1 in the post-season and all 5 games were decided by one run. Tim Lincecum improved to 2-0 in his post-season career. Cody Ross hit his third home run of the post-season. Carlos Ruiz has reached safely in 24 straight play-off games. The Phillies are 23-10 in the post-season since 2008. The Giants beat Halladay twice this year and remain the only team in baseball to beat all of the Phillies' big 3 (Oswalt, Halladay, and Hammels). Tomorrow, Jonathan Sanchez will take on Roy Oswalt, who the Giants have beat 3 times this year.