As the 2010 postseason delves further into October, the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies are the last two National League teams standing.
The National League Championship Series between these two clubs will begin on Saturday, October 16th in Philadelphia.
The Phillies jumped all over Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds, sweeping Dusty Baker and company right out of the playoffs. While it may be tee time in Cincinnati, the Phillies are resting, laying in wait for the Giants.
In San Francisco there lies another brand of baseball. The Giants secured their NLCS ticket in four games, sending Atlanta home for good in 2010. Shipping off Bobby Cox was no easy task, each game being decided by a single run.
On paper and before your eyes, the Phillies have been the team to beat coming into the playoffs. They feature top-notch pitching, a fearsome lineup, and oodles of playoff knowledge in the dugout.
One thing is for certain with the Giants: they can pitch. It is the other things like hitting, and oh maybe more hitting that are less certain.
The Giants squeaked by the Braves, getting just enough runs to win by the narrowest of margins. This will not fly against the Phillies. If the Giants want to have a chance against a true juggernaut like Philly, they will need certain players to step up and deliver big time.
If the Giants thought the likes of Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson and and Tommy Hanson were tough to score on, they really have another thing coming.
It took almost all the Giants had to scratch runs across against the Braves playoff rotation. How they will react to the Phillies' aces is a scary thought to even the most ardent of Giants fans.
In game one of the NLCS, the Giants will have to face Roy Halladay. The man. Halladay is the front runner for the NL Cy Young, and already has a no hitter in this post season.
If that was not enough, the Phillies playoff rotation of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt are boasting the lowest ERA (1.00) in the postseason, and a 1.24 BA.
Despite the fantastic games being pitched by San Francisco's own rotation, there was still one team better. They will see this rotation first hand come Saturday.
It's a gut check for the Giants sluggers.
Juan Uribe was a key clutch performer for the Giants all year at the plate. His quick, full body cut often sent pitches over the fence when the Giants needed it the most.
Uribe is one of the few Giants in the lineup who broke camp with the club in April with playoff experience on his resume. His timely hitting amounted for 24 home runs, and 85 RBI.
But in the NLDS against the Braves, Uribe's clutch factor was neutralized.
His .071 playoff batting average is costing the Giants, who have a hard enough time putting up runs. With one lonely hit in 14 playoff at bats thus far, Uribe needs to dial it in quick against a superior pitching staff.
Uribe is hitting .222 againts Roy Halladay this year, but Hamels has the ownage- holding him to a lowly .125 average. Only with Oswalt has Uribe fared well against, hitting 6 of 16 with a homer.
If Uribe cannot deliver, especially with runners on base, the Giants will quickly find themselves in more torture than they bargained for.
Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez have a combined total of four hits for the Giants in the postseason.
The Braves pitching really carved up Torres and Sanchez, who bat back-to-back and lead off the Giants lineup.
The journey that has marked the arrival of Andres Torres as a major player in the National League has been a special and exciting story for the Giants in 2010. Torres made a formidable leadoff hitter and delivered time and time again in clutch situations.
That story has yet to translate to the playoffs, where Torres has struggled mightily. In the few times Torres faced the Phillies aces, he did not fare well. Torres struggled against Oswalt, and was keenly handled by Halladay. Only against Hamels does Torres have any success, and that sample size is small. We're talking three at bats.
Second baseman Freddy Sanchez has only performed marginally better in the 2010 postseason. As with Torres, this is the first playoff go round for Sanchez—and he also needs to prove he belongs here.
Sanchez has a lowly .125 average in the playoffs to date. Sanchez is a career .298 hitter, who's talent was wasted for years with the Pittsburgh Pirates. There's no question Sanchez can hit, it just has not happened yet.
With two hits in 16 at bats against Atlanta, Sanchez will need to get his stroke back if he wants to keep his team alive in the playoffs.
Of all the Giants hitters, no one knows the Phillies better than Pat Burrell.
Burrell's success in Philadelphia made him a household name. He has the ring to prove it.
The acquisition of Pat Burrell was a steal for the Giants in 2010. Low cost, high yield. Even better, Burrell loves it in San Francisco.
Burrell's presence in the lineup added immediate respectability for the Giants offense. Time and time again Burrell's ability to jack up a multi-run dinger was the deciding factor in many of the Giants close wins.
Burrell is batting .200 so far in the post-season, with two hits. Even though Pat collided with a first inning pitch, hitting a three run homer in a low scoring series, the Giants will need a lot more from this slugger.
Burrell has good numbers against Halladay and is probably San Francisco best threat on Saturday against his former team.
Will we finally see Pat the Bat really come to life in Philadelphia?
In 2010, when the Giants were scoring runs, it often was because of Aubrey Huff. Huff has been hands down the most consistent and capable hitter in the Giants lineup.
Aubrey Huff leads the Giants in just about all relevant offensive categories, batting average (.290), HR (26), RBI (86), Runs (100) and OPS (.891).
When Huff brings it, the Giants follow.
Although Huff was a real contributing factor in the few runs the Giants scored against the Braves, his numbers have yet to really stand out as they did for much of the regular season.
Huff is batting .267 since the playoffs began. He has only four hits, as timely as they were. To qualify that, every hit in the Giants / Braves series was timely. His three walks were indeed a factor.
Four hits in the NLCS just will not cut it, especially if the Phillies sluggers get into the Giants pitching. Against Oswalt and Halladay, Huff batted .254ish, but had tremendous difficulty hitting Hamels consistently.
By the end of the NLCS, much will have depended on what Huff did, or failed to do for the Giants.
The same goes for all the Giants hitters talked about here, it's either get to hitting, or kick rocks. The Philadelphia Phillies are not the Atlanta Braves, and they do not suffer sparse hitting.