The San Francisco Giants defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, 3-0, at AT&T Park yesterday afternoon, and thereby took a 2-1 lead in the National League Championship Series.
Matt Cain pitched seven brilliant, two-hit shutout innings, completely neutralizing one of the most powerful lineups in baseball. It was the Giants' second shutout of the postseason so far, tying a team record that dates back to 1917. Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson were near-perfect in relief. And manager Bruce Bochy's right-handed-heavy lineup came through against Philly starter Cole Hamels, who pitched a pretty good game himself. Aaron Rowand, getting the start in center field and batting eighth, opened the fifth with a double and scored on Freddy Sanchez' two-out single, which ricocheted off second baseman Chase Utley and was initially ruled an error. Edgar Renteria, batting leadoff, opened the fourth with a single and scored a run. And, of course, there was the obligatory RBI from Cody Ross, which drove in Renteria with the game's first run. That RBI was made possible by Pat Burrell's two-out walk, which moved "Rent" into scoring position, and was followed by Aubrey Huff's RBI single which scored Burrell. The Giants managed only five hits off Hamels, but three of them were two-out RBIs, and that's your ballgame, sports fans.
Cain, absolutely impassive and controlled throughout, walked three and struck out five with his 119 pitches. Lefthander Lopez came in for the eighth, to face Utley and Ryan Howard. Charlie Manuel had also tinkered with his lineup, inserting Placido Polanco in between those two to eliminate the lefty-lefty tandem and make Bochy's job a little harder. And after Lopez retired Utley to open the frame, some of us wondered fretfully if "Boch" would summon Santiago Casilla to face Polanco and bring in Jeremy Affeldt for Howard. Not to worry, at least this time; Lopez handled both Polanco and Howard, and that left it up to Wilson. He gave up a one-out single to Jimmy Rollins in the ninth, a line-drive rocket that ricocheted off the right-field wall and was handled ably by Nate Schierholz. Impervious, Wilson then got Raul Ibanez to ground into a double play to end the affair.
Tonight's Game Four is slated to begin at 7:30 PM EDT (4:30 PDT), with Madison Bumgarner getting the start at the 'Bell. Joe Blanton, who hasn't pitched in a month, will start for Philadelphia. Blanton defeated Cain back at Citizens Bank Park August 18, during the Giants' darkest hour, in his only start against San Francisco this year. Overall, he was 9-6, 4.82 for the season-- but he won his last five decisions down the stretch as Philly overtook the Braves, with a 3.00 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 57 innings for those ten starts. And win or lose, the second installment of the Tim Lincecum-Roy Halladay matchup will take place Thursday evening in Game Five, which, of course, we all hope will be the last game of this series.