The Giants rebounded from Tuesday's 7-2 sleep-walk loss to take the series behind Cain, Lincecum and an amazingly consistent bullpen.
What, if anything, did we learn from it all?
First, Barry Zito is highly unlikely to face the Phillies—or anyone else—in the 2011 postseason, assuming the Giants qualify.
Zito's implosion on Tuesday, his second successive stumble after three impressive starts since an extended rehab, did little to make a case for including him in the club's postseason plans.
I know, I know;it's presumptuous to make judgments about postseason rosters with eight weeks of the regular season remaining. But speculating is what we do.
It would take a lingering medical issue with Jonathan Sanchez (who threw 95 pitches for Fresno in a rehab start last night) for Zito to be a rotation option. Assuming Sanchez is healthy, he's the fifth starter. And Zito's status, period, should be up for discussion.
Second, the Giants must find another option at catcher. Eli Whiteside was a circus act Wednesday night, committing two errors, his third and fourth of the year.
Even worse, Whiteside exposed Matt Cain to injury by failing to call him off of a pop up between home plate and the pitchers' mound. Thankfully, Cain emerged unscathed, and the damage was limited to an unearned run in a 2-1 Giants win.
Giant catchers were responsible for six passed balls (two by Whiteside) in 2010. There have already been 11 this season—with 58 games still to play.
The Giants can't expect Whiteside, a career backup, and a 29-year-old with 60 games of major league experience to replace Buster Posey's skills, uncommon poise and leadership.
Neither Whiteside nor Chris Stewart are going to hit much; the Giants would settle for consistently solid defense. They are getting that from Stewart, but not Whiteside.
Third, we've seen—again—that the Giants bullpen maintains ownage on the Phillies' Ryan Howard.
Brian Wilson didn't freeze Howard in a critical ninth inning at bat on Wednesday, as he did in Game 6 of last year's NLCS. But he did retire him again, this time on a routine fly ball.
And there was a perceptible grimace on Howard's face—as there was last October. Nice.
Finally, we know the Giants have planted themselves squarely inside Phillies manager Charlie Manuel's head.
How do we know? Manuel told us so, following Thursday's 4-1 series-deciding loss.
Here's Manuel, as chronicled by the San Jose Mercury-News Andy Baggarly in his post game blog:
"They’re not in our heads. I don’t think so. Really, I don’t think so at all.”
And, commenting on Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum:
"“They’re good pitchers. You say they’re great pitchers. To me, I don’t know how great they are. I think as they move on into their careers, there’s the longevity part and things like that. I think that’s when the greatness might come by. This is a consistent game. When you say somebody is great … tonight I saw 90 fastball, 92 at the best. I saw a good changeup. I saw a breaking ball. I saw a cutter. Good pitching, but at the same time we can beat that. I’ve seen us do that.”
Charlie, Charlie. Your lineup over two games batted a collective .156 (10-64); your murderer's row of Utley, Howard, Victorino and Ibanez were even worse: .129 (4-31).
Good pitching? Whatever you say.