October 21, 2010

On the brink.

So far, the San Francisco Giants have outplayed the Philadelphia Phillies.

They've played smarter. They've played harder. They're exuding a confidence that was previously reserved only for teams coming off two straight World Series berths, teams like the Phillies. But now, momentum resides solely in San Francisco.

Last night, it was the pitching that came up short. But I refuse to nitpick any decisions involving the Roys; it was right to start Joe Blanton, and if Roy Oswalt says he can give you an inning on his side day, I'd much rather see him out there than Kyle Kendrick.

Should Charlie Manuel have left Blanton in longer? Probably, considering how wiped the bullpen was by the 9th. Should he have had Rollins bunt Werth to third in the 8th, should he have pinch-hit for Ben Francisco afterward? Most definitely, but hindsight is always 20/20.

This isn't the time to bitch about the umpires or complain about little managerial moves. This is a series that has played out exactly as it should. I don't care what happened over 162 regular season games; the Phillies are losing this National League Championship Series because, over the last four games, they've largely been a disappointment.

Right now, the Phillies can't manufacture runs; the Giants can. At best, the pitching has evened out. When you're at a disadvantage like that, no matter how slight, the only way to overcome it is playing spirited, intelligent baseball. This is something, unfortunately, that the Giants have been doing.

Meanwhile, the Phillies, the "playoff-tested" team, are making errors left and right. Wasting an out by foolishly sending Ruiz home. Booting ground balls, failing to move runners over, flailing at pitches outside the strike zone.

The Giants deserve to be up 3-1; Cody Ross deserves to feel like Babe Ruth right now, no matter how absurdly stupid his new "nickname" may be. They've earned this chance to clinch on their home field.

But amazingly, the Phillies can change all that. This is why you spend $50 million a year on three aces: for tense, otherwise hopeless moments like these. Throw a seven-spot on Tim Lincecum and company tonight. Get a gem from Roy Halladay. Show the San Francisco fans and players that this series might not be over.

Let's be honest; the series is probably over. Beating an ace pitcher in his home park, a pitcher's park, with an unbelievably raucous crowd behind him? I'd say it's far more likely that the World Series Game 6 tickets my mom somehow snagged for face value will go to waste.

But with Halladay, Oswalt and Cole Hamels, there's always hope. It might be slight, it might be unwarranted, but it's hope. Bust out the clich├ęs: one game at a time, one batter at a time, etc. Teams can claw back; we've seen the Red Sox do it. Hell, we've seen the Flyers do it.

Do I think it will happen? No. I'm planning to acquire a large amount of beer before tonight's game, as I expect to have some sorrows that need drinking away. But a part of me remains, as The A.V. Club is so fond of repeating, cautiously optimistic. In about eight hours, we'll see how stupid that part of me really is.

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