In Game 3 of the 2010 NLCS, Matt Cain outdueled Cole Hamels for a 3-0 win on a night where there was scant offense from the Phillies and not a tremendous amount more from the Giants. Wednesday's 2-1 Phils loss may have looked familiar, with Cain and the Giants topping Hamels and the home side, 2-1, and the teams combining for 10 hits.
The Phillies got some bats on Cain's pitches but couldn't get them to fall, notching just four hits all night despite striking out only once. Hell the Giants even tried to give them some opportunities, with a few miscues in the field allowing Phillies baserunners. They just couldn't put anything together, save for a seventh inning Domonic Brown RBI after a laugher of a Giants error.
Anyone worried about the Phillies' autumnal offense got a bit more ammo for the trade deadline debates that have been raging this week. More on the game below.
On Tuesday night, Vance Worley found a way to make it through 9 innings last night without getting a single batter to swing and miss. Hamels got that out of the way early and often, striking out six, including three in the first two innings, all swinging. Cole would scatter three more K's over the course of his seven total innings, two of which were swinging, and the third was on a Cain bunt attempt going foul.
Unfortunately, Hamels didn't get any support tonight. Aaron Rowand put the Giants ahead with an RBI triple in the third, and Nate Schierholtz knocked in Jeff Keppinger in what looked like a dangerous top of the seventh (particularly for Brown, who dove awkwardly for the ball and missed). But after Cole hit catcher Eli Whiteside with a pitch, he got Cain to pop out and Rowand to GIDP, ending the threat.
The Phillies stole one back in the bottom of the seventh when a Shane Victorino high pop in the infield was botched by Cain and Whiteside failing to call each other off, and the ball rolling well into foul territory. Vic ran all the way to second on it, then made it home when Dom Brown chopped a single past Aubrey Huff and into left. That'd be it for the runs though.
With two outs and a runner on second in the seventh, Brad Lidge came in to relieve Hamels. Lidge couldn't get Jeff Keppinger to bite on a slider with two strikes and ended up walking him, but he came back to K Cody Ross on a high fastball. Ross had a pair of strikeouts on the night, even throwing his bat wildly into the stands on a Hamels buckler, so at least he didn't reprise his NLCS performance.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Phils got some more fortune from the Giants' fielders, with pinch hitter Ross Gload getting aboard despite flying out after catcher's interference was called. Again though, despite being spotted the baserunner, the Phils failed to do anything in the frame.
Antonio Bastardo came in to throw a nasty, perfect top of the ninth, retiring the side in order with a pair of strikeouts. But in the bottom half, further reviving all sorts of disgusting NLCS nostalgia, Brian Wilson came in to face Ryan Howard (who did not strike out looking, mind you, but did get boned on a called strike that he watched), Victorino, and Raul Ibanez. He retired the side for his 32nd save, closing out the win for Cain.
Without the drama of the NLCS rematch, this would have been just your average boring ballgame, the complete antithesis of last night. Sometimes the bats just don't come out, and a good pitcher loses on a night he deserves to win. But with that drama, the Phils' possible flaws were amplified. No one in the building forgets that they came up limp in a few of the games against San Francisco last October, and these two teams could very well face off in the postseason again this year.
The offense we've seen in the month of July, including just last night against this same team, are enough to counter any overreactions and hyperbole coming out of tonight's loss. It's not likely we'll see Barry Zito if these teams meet in the playoffs though, so let's hope they get a feel for how to hit the rest of the Giants' starters before then. They have five more games against each other in the next two weeks, so I'm sure we'll be hearing plenty more about it.
Carlos Beltran will join the Giants in Philly shortly and presumably be in the lineup for tomorrow's season finale (and Pat Burrell will could be released to make room). Tim Lincecum is expected to get the start for San Fran, facing Kyle Kendrick, who will try to get the Phillies their 10th straight series win.
Photos by Matt Slocum, AP