5 Reasons Phillies' Series Win over Giants Doesn't Mean Much
When the Philadelphia Phillies arrived in San Francisco for a four-game series with the team that defeated them in last year's NLCS, and then took two of three from them in their first meeting in 2011 at Citizens Bank Park, much was made of the idea that the Giants were "in the Phillies' heads."
After Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel's comments about how Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain were "good, not great," yet another subtle indicator of a mounting frustration over the Phillies' apparent inability to overcome the Giants, a rivalry that had been simmering was now heating up to a boil.
In the aftermath of the series, with the Phillies taking three of four from the Giants, including a 9-2 blowout of San Francisco in Game 2, it is very likely that the perception around the baseball world is that the Phillies have finally asserted their superiority over the band of misfits.
Here are five reasons why such a perception would be unfounded.
1. In Games Started by Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner, Giants' Era Was 1.20
It's safe to say that if the postseason were to begin today, the projected starting rotation for the Giants would consist of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong.
In the five games that these four starters have taken the mound against the Phillies in 2011, San Francisco's team ERA is 1.20.
Philadelphia hit just .191 (31-for-162) against the Giants in those five contests.
The other two games that the Giants have played against the Phillies this season were started by Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez, both of whom would likely be in the bullpen in a playoff scenario.
2. Seven of the 14 Phillies Earned Runs Were Driven in by Two Hitters
It wasn't until Sunday that Hunter Pence found out what it felt like to actually lose a game while in a Phillies uniform.
Against the Giants, he and teammate John Mayberry, Jr. drove in half of all earned runs scored by the Phillies in their four-game series against the Giants.
Had the Giants been able to control these two bats, in particular, the result of the series may have been vastly different.
3. Giants Offense Productive, but Not in the Clutch
While it certainly doesn't show in the final run totals, the Giants offense was actually fairly productive against Philadelphia over the weekend.
San Francisco had seven hits against an otherwise dominant Cliff Lee in the series opener, nine hits against rookie phenom Vance Worley Friday night, seven more against Cole Hamels Saturday, and 13 hits against Roy Oswalt in the series finale Sunday.
With those 36 hits in the series, one would think the Giants would score enough to get a couple of more victories.
But the fact is, San Francisco was awful with runners in scoring position, getting just four hits in 30 at-bats (.133 BA) with a man on second or third.
With newcomers Carlos Beltran and Orlando Cabrera still adjusting to their new club and possibly pressing in clutch situations, the transition into a comfort zone may change these dismal numbers down the stretch.
The fact that San Francisco, having to this point an anemic offense to say the least, even had 30 at-bats with runners in scoring position during the series, is an encouraging sign.
4. Ryan Howard Remains a Non-Factor Against San Francisco
The biggest power threat and run producer in the Philadelphia lineup, Ryan Howard, was simply not relevant in any way against the Giants in this series, or in the series at Citizens Bank Park earlier in the month.
In the four-game set at AT&T Park, Howard went 1-for-12 with eight strikeouts. On the season against the Giants, Howard is just 3-for-24 with 2 RBI.
5. Game 3 Was Decided by Sloppy Giants Defense
The third game of the Giants-Phillies series was a pitching duel between Matt Cain and Cole Hamels, both of whom tossed gems.
But the reason Cain took a loss was because of an unearned run scored by the Phillies on an error by Pablo Sandoval that enabled Chase Utley to advance to third base.
Utley would score on a passed-ball.
Had that error not cost San Francisco a run, Pablo Sandoval's ninth-inning homer off of Hamels would have tied the game at one, and the Giants may have ended up winning the game in extra innings.
A series split would then have resulted, with San Francisco winning behind Tim Lincecum in the finale, changing the face-value perception of the Phillies' dominance over the Giants.
Phillies' Series Victory Doesn't Change Dynamic Between Them and Giants
With the Phillies taking three of four from the Giants over the weekend, the season series stands at Philadelphia with four wins, and the Giants with three.
This series could really have gone either way, given how well San Francisco pitched (Game 2 notwithstanding) and how an unearned run was the difference in helping Philadelphia secure the win on Saturday.
Going forward, these two teams will not meet again in 2011 unless it is in the postseason, and that is a very real possibility.
The team that is hottest as the calendar turns over to October will have the edge, and a postseason series (which we many times forget could even be an NLDS five-game match-up should the NL Central champion have a better record the the Giants) should be another one to remember.