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NLCS 2010: Philadelphia Phillies Are Still Favorites With H20

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NLCS 2010: Philadelphia Phillies Are Still Favorites With H20
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It was the matchup everyone was waiting for: Tim Lincecum vs. Roy Halladay. Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter in this postseason's first game, while Tim Lincecum threw a two-hit shutout complemented by 14 K's.

In Game 1 of the NLCS, however, neither pitcher lived up to the expectations of a 1-0 game.

Roy Halladay gave up four earned runs in seven innings of work last night, including two home runs to Cody Ross. Tim Lincecum got the win, matching Halladay's seven innings and giving up three earned runs. 

Neither pitcher was even close to being the player of the game. Both were in the shadows of Cody Ross, who had Roy Halladay's number last night, bashing two homers off him. Lincecum gave up home runs to Carlos Ruiz and Jayson Werth. So, while the theme in Game 1 was supposed to be pitching, it turned out to be the long ball.

The Giants put the heavily favored Phillies behind in the series, 1-0, when Brian Wilson came in to get the save, striking out four out of the four batters he faced. 

But the Phillies do not need to worry. Between Oswalt and Hamels, I like the Phillies' chances of winning the next two games.

Oswalt has a 1.74 ERA since joining the Phils earlier this year, and Hamels has been pitching much better this year than he did in 2009. Hamels looked great throwing a shutout against the Reds to finish off the sweep of the Reds. Additionally, Hamels knows how to pitch in the playoffs. When the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, Hamels was awarded the World Series MVP.

Although this is the first time the Phils have lost Game 1 of a postseason series in three years, they just seem to win every playoff series they are in. In the Phillies last seven postseason series, they have only lost one.

With Oswalt going in Game 2 against Jonathan Sanchez, one has to think that there is going to be a pitching duel. Oswalt has been dominant for the Phils this year, especially at Citizens Bank Park. Sanchez has been great against the Phillies this year with a 1.38 ERA against them. 

With Oswalt's experience of pitching in the playoffs for the Astros, the Phillies have the edge in pitching experience for Game 2. Sanchez is a postseason rookie pitching in a hostile Citizens Bank Park. 

In Game 3, the pitching matchup will be Cole Hamels vs. Matt Cain in San Francisco. Hamels is one of the best playoff pitchers left in this year's postseason. Cain is a postseason rookie just as Sanchez, but he is not bad for a first-timer. Cain gave up no earned runs in 6.2 innings against the Braves in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Cain was chosen to start by manager Bruce Bochy in Game 3 instead of Game 2 because of his 5.29 career ERA at Citizens Bank Park. He will start at AT&T Park, where he has had a career 3.16 ERA.

The Phillies have to hold the edge in Game 3 with Hamels, who seems to always be lights-out in the playoffs. I believe Cain will pitch a good game, but the Phillies have too much star power with the bats, and will manage to score enough runs for Hamels.

In Game 4, it's Joe Blanton going for the Fightin' Phils and Madison Bumgarner for the Giants. Blanton has been far from good this year and Bumgarner is not only a playoff rookie, he is a first-year Major League pitcher. In terms of pitching, I am going to give the Giants a slight edge, but pitching will not be as much of a factor in this game as in the first three.

If there is any game in this series that will be a slugfest, it will be Game 4.

Whichever team shows up to hit the ball in Game 4 will probably be the winner. If the Giants can get an early lead, I think they will win the game. The way the Phillies can win the game is if Blanton gives up fewer than five runs and the Phillies just hit the ball pretty well against Bumgarner. 

In Game 4, I believe the Giants have the best chance at winning the game.

If Game 5 is necessary, it will be a 50-50 toss-up, just like Game 1. Don't expect another 4-3 game, think more along the lines of 2-0 or 2-1. Halladay will toss a great game and Lincecum should match him. With the game at AT&T Park, I like the Giants to win Game 5 with Tim Lincecum pitching a complete game.

If Game 6 is necessary, it will look very similar to Game 2 with Oswalt going against Sanchez. At Citizens Bank Park again, I have to stick with Oswalt in the matchup.

Oswalt has the experience of pitching in big NLCS games in Houston, and he has been brilliant at home for the Phillies this year. The X factor in Game 6 will be the home-field advantage for Oswalt and the Phils. I like Oswalt to outduel Sanchez and win Game 6 for the Phils.

If all of my predictions are correct and this series goes to Game 7, the pitching matchup between Hamels and Cain is the most likely scenario. If that is the case, the Phillies will be heavily favored to win Game 7. Cole Hamels will be dominant, there is almost no question about it. So Matt Cain will have to match Hamels with an absolute gem, and that is no easy task for Cain in Philadelphia.

The Phillies fans will be relentless and make it hard for Cain, along with the rest of the team. Cain has struggled in his career in Philadelphia and I don't see that changing. Hamels will pitch a good Game 7 and the Phillies will score enough runs off Cain to pull off the win.

The Giants will definitely give the Phillies a run for their money in this series. But between the pitching, hitting and playoff experience of the Phils, they will find a way to win this series.

They always do. 

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