San Francisco Giants' 5 Keys to Defeating the Philadelphia Phillies This Weekend
After Philadelphia Phillies' left-hander Cliff Lee exacted his revenge against the San Francisco Giants Thursday night, shutting them down in his first contest against them since Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, the task before the defending world champs doesn't get much easier as they head into the weekend.
Tonight, they face National League Rookie of the Year candidate Vance Worley, who mastered San Francisco's lineup last week in Philadelphia to notch a complete game victory of his own.
In the final two games of the four-game set, the Giants will face Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.
Needless to say, this tall order will require San Francisco to play very well to even come out of the series with a split.
Here are five keys to Giants success against their rivals from the NL East this weekend ...
1. Put Men on Base in Front of Pablo Sandoval and Carlos Beltran
Pablo Sandoval and Carlos Beltran are the Giants' most consistent hitters, and they also happen to be swinging the bat very well right now.
Even against a dominant Cliff Lee on Thursday night, Sandoval and Beltran both had hits.
The problem, of course, was that no one was on base when they got those hits, particularly when Beltran doubled in the ninth.
If San Francisco has visions of even splitting this series with the red-hot Phillies, who have now won seven straight, the hitters that come before Sandoval and Beltran, particularly the leadoff platoon of Andres Torres and Aaron Rowand, must reach base to give the heart of the order a chance to drive them in.
2. Cool off Hunter Pence
Hunter Pence hasn't tasted defeat while in a Phillies uniform, and he's a big reason why.
On Thursday night, Pence hit a mammoth home run down the left field line to put the Phillies on top, and with Cliff Lee on the mound, that was all that was necessary for a victory in the series opener with the Giants.
San Francisco has proven that its pitching staff can contain Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Howard was 0-for-4 Thursday, and is now 1-for-20 against the Giants this season.
But Hunter Pence must be managed if the Giants want to avoid losing three of four, or worse, this weekend.
3. Make Phillies' Starters Work
Cliff Lee made quick work of the Giants in the series opener, needing only 106 pitches to put San Francisco away and earn a complete game-shutout victory.
The Giants will need to put together better at-bats, even if those at-bats turn into outs, in order to get to Philadelphia's elite starters in games two through four.
In his complete game victory over the Giants last week in Philadelphia, Friday night's starter for the Phillies, Vance Worley, threw just 114 pitches.
San Francisco's hitters are going to need patience and tenacity to put pressure on Philadelphia's strong starting staff.
4. Get a Good Outing from Returning Starter Jonathan Sanchez
In making his first start since going on the disabled list just prior to the All-Star break, Jonathan Sanchez will be asked not only to toss a good game against the team with the best record in baseball, but to put the Giants in a position to win a crucial second game of this four-game weekend series.
A loss in game two for the Giants would cultivate a confidence for the Phillies that they haven't had against the defending champions since last October's loss in the NLCS; a confidence whose seeds were planted with Thursday night's 3-0 victory.
Sanchez's start could very well set the tone, good or bad, for the rest of the series.
5. Get the Sell-out Crowd Involved Early and Often
The Giants are home for this series, and after taking two out of three from the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park last week, they now find themselves on their own turf, with their own fans, who have ensured 53 straight sell-outs this season.
The fans at AT&T Park have never been louder or more enthusiastic about their beloved club, and the Giants need to utilize the "advantage" part of the home field advantage by giving the crowd something to cheer about early and often.
After This Weekend, These Two Clubs Won't Meet Again Unless It's October
The next three games mark the final meetings between the Giants and Phillies in the 2011 regular season.
The winner of this series will carry a significant momentum going forward toward the postseason, and as we have all no doubt become aware, the psychological edge is a very important factor when it comes to games between these two teams.
Games two through four of this series are crucial, and the Giants need to do all the little things right in order to stay inside the minds of the Phillies, continuing to mystify them with their uncanny ability to dominate despite Philadelphia's edge on paper.
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