If the Phillies win the upcoming National League Championship Series, they will be the first team since the St. Louis Cardinals from 1942-44 to win three straight National League pennants.
But a very dangerous and hungry San Francisco Giants team will have a lot to say about the Phillies chase towards almost 70 years of history.
The Giants eliminated Bobby Cox and the Braves Monday night to advance to the NLCS for the first time since 2002, where they will face off against those Philadelphia Phillies.
The Braves may have been a better matchup for the Phillies in their quest to three-peat as National League champions.
The Phillies barely edged the Braves with a record of 10-8 in the games the two played against each other in the regular season, but Philadelphia probably owns a significant psychological advantage considering they swept the Braves in the middle of September with the National League East division pretty much hanging in the balance.
Had the Braves squeezed out of the first round, the Phillies might've had a relatively easy NLCS depending on how much the sweep from a month ago was weighing on the Braves mentally, along with the makeshift roster the Braves brought into October baseball due to injury.
Their already depleted roster was not helped when closer Billy Wagner went down with an oblique strain in Game 2. So the Giants winning that series will be good for baseball in general, as this will be a more competitive NLCS matchup.
The Giants, while nowhere as offensively talented as the Phillies, who boast Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the middle of their lineup, will certainly have an opportunity to neutralize the Phillies lineup with their pitching.
Tim Lincecum, most likely the Game 1 starter, had arguably the best performance outside of Roy Halladay's no-hitter in the entire first round of the postseason, throwing a complete game shutout while striking out 14 Atlanta hitters. In a long series, you could fully expect him to throw in three games. And when he's on, he can throw with anyone in the league (Yes, even Roy Halladay).
They also have arguably the best bullpen remaining in the playoffs, headlined by closer Brian Wilson, who led the majors in the regular season with 48 saves. Right-hander Sergio Romo, and left hander Jeremy Affeldt shoulder most of the important duties in their relief corps.
If the game is tied in the late innings where it becomes a battle of the bullpens, the advantage is almost automatically San Francisco's. The Phillies bullpen was a mystery for most of the regular season, and it hasn't proven much in the postseason because, well, they haven't had to. Halladay and Cole Hamels each threw complete games so the only game in which the Phillies bullpen had to compete was in Game 2.
The Phillies clearly have the big three in the front of their rotation: Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. That is huge, as proven in the first round where Cincinnati didn't have a chance in the land of fire and brimstone. But if the Giants were going to win this series, it wasn't going to be with their offense to begin with. The Giants only scored 11 runs in four games, under three per game.. and won the series.
It's hard to discount the Phillies, who made the World Series last year and won it in 2008. But this San Francisco ballclub is a lot tougher than the Dodgers that the Phillies eliminated in 2008 and 2009.
They held off an Atlanta club that was hellbent on getting their retiring skipper Bobby Cox to a World Series, and now it's their job to hold off a Philadelphia team that has not seemed one bit jaded by all their recent success. The difference may be that the Giants were battle-tested by the Braves in the first round. The Phillies? Not so much.
If the San Francisco pitching staff does their job, the Giants will have a chance to win this series. And if the Giants can hit a little bit, they will win the series.
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