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Matt Cain shuts down Phillies as Giants take 2-1 lead in NLCS

Oct 19, 2010, 7:40 PM EDT

NLCS Phillies Giants Baseball

Philadelphia scored the second-most runs in the NL during the regular season, averaged 4.4 runs through five playoffs games, and hadn’t been shut out since August, but the Phillies’ lineup managed just three singles and three walks while being blanked by Matt Cain, Javier Lopez, and Brian Wilson in Game 3 of the NLCS.

Cain struggled at times with his command, throwing first-pitch strikes to just 15 of 28 batters, plunking two hitters in addition to handing out three walks, and finding the strike zone with just 69 of his 119 offerings overall, but the Phillies simply couldn’t put together many damage-inducing swings.

Charlie Manuel shifted his lineup to insert Placido Polanco between Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in an effort to make life tougher on side-arming left-handed specialist Javier Lopez in the late innings, but Lopez needed just nine pitches to record three outs after relieving Cain and Brian Wilson pitched around Jimmy Rollins’ wall-banging single to close out the 3-0 win.

Cody Ross once again played a big role for the Giants, knocking in the game’s first run with a sharp single to left field in the fourth inning. That proved to be all the support Cain, Lopez, and Wilson needed and Ross is now 8-for-23 (.348) with four homers and seven RBIs in seven playoff games. Not bad for a guy the Giants ended up in August with after putting in a waiver claim primarily to block the Padres from doing the same.

Obviously his postseason production is unexpected, but Ross hasn’t quite come out of nowhere. In five seasons as a regular he’s averaged 24 homers per 550 at-bats and his Isolated Power–which is slugging percentage minus batting average–of .203 during that span ranks right up there with some pretty big names like Vladimir Guerrero (.207), Brian McCann (.206), Troy Tulowitzki (.205), Torii Hunter (.202), Derrek Lee (.200), and Andre Ethier (.200).

Ross doesn’t have much plate discipline or strike-zone control and hits for low batting averages, so he hasn’t developed into anything more than an average corner outfielder, but as the Braves and Phillies have learned the guy has always had plenty of power and he’s even produced a 4/3 K/BB ratio so far in the playoffs.

Bruce Bochy has made it very clear all along that rookie Madison Bumgarner will be the Giants’ starter in Game 4 and Manuel wasted no time confirming that he’ll stick with Joe Blanton tomorrow night despite being down 2-1 in the series. Manuel was no doubt tempted to bring back Roy Halladay on short rest, but that would also have involved doing the same with Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. Plus, with The Big Three now waiting in the wings to start Games 5-7 on full rest it’s not quite a “must-win” situation for Blanton.

Obviously he’d love to continue leaning exclusively on Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels, but having them at full strength will give the Phillies a chance to win the series regardless of what happens in Game 4 and Blanton quietly had a very strong second half in their collective shadow. He went 6-1 with a 3.29 ERA and 75/21 K/BB ratio in 14 starts after the All-Star break and if he can out-duel Bumgarner the Phillies will suddenly be back in the driver’s seat with The Big Three lined up for what would essentially be a three-game series.

Of course, Bumgarner had a 1.18 ERA and 34/7 K/BB ratio in his final six regular season starts and beat the Braves with six innings of two-run ball in the NLDS, so the Giants are a good outing by their young southpaw away from making every game a “must-win” for the Phillies.

  1. Reflex - Oct 19, 2010 at 7:55 PM

    The unlikely Giants/Rangers series I’d like to see just got more likely. The “Big 3″ are doing quite well so far, but the Giants appear to be outpitching them, as improbable as that seemed coming into this. The guy who said the Phils have three Lincecums was always dreaming though, I love Oswalt and Hamels quite a bit, but they are a step down from the Lincecum/Halladay level aces. Both very good, but on a lot of staff’s they’d be a number two(or even #3 in Oswalt’s case).

    • dkmuldoon - Oct 19, 2010 at 8:19 PM

      Was it really THAT “improbable”? Yes, Halladay is amazing, and Oswalt had a great September, and Hamels has also been great. I think, however, that you are forgetting that Lincecum has 2 (deserved) Cy Youngs, Sanchez had just as great an end of season as Oswalt, and Cain is a pretty damn good pitcher himself. I’m not saying they should have been favored to win 2 of 3, but to act like the Giants trio outpitching Philly’s is a huge shock seems a little silly. Do you not realize how good they are, or are you one of those east coast fans who don’t pay attention to anything west of St. Louis?

      • Reflex - Oct 19, 2010 at 9:16 PM

        Uh, did you actually complete my post? I spent the last two sentences pointing out that the Big 3 Phillies aren’t really as big as Phils fans like to believe. That said, the betting money was on a Phils/Yanks World Series, and as I stated in the first sentence, thats the one I’d like to see.

        And since I live in Seattle I think I can safely say that no, I am not an east coast fan. Work on your reading comprehension.

      • Reflex - Oct 19, 2010 at 9:18 PM

        Heh, misspoke there, the betting money was on a Phils/Yanks World Series, but as I have stated repeatedly a Rangers/Giants one is one I’d like to see. ;)

      • dkmuldoon - Oct 19, 2010 at 11:38 PM

        Yeah, and you still implied that Oswalt/Hamels were significantly ahead of Cain/Sanchez, which I think is pretty silly. Oswalt 5 years ago? Sure, but now, I don’t think so.

        As for a Phillies/Yankees series, I can’t think of many matchups I’d LESS like to see. Gee, let’s have the same teams as last year, both of whom the national media have massive crushes on and both of whom have massively entitled fan bases. Sounds like fun.

      • Reflex - Oct 20, 2010 at 1:13 AM

        Uh, are you just incapable of reading? I said *the guy*, not myself, who statied the Phils have three Lincecum level pitchers. In the last sentence I stated that Oswalt might even be a #3 on some staffs, and honestly I’d put him third on the Giants staff(better than Sanchez, worse than Cain).

        Geez, ridiculous. Read it again if you still don’t get it.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 19, 2010 at 11:05 PM

      LOLZ. All the Phillies hate coming out. No biggie. I stand by my prediction of Phillies in 6. I’m sorry…I missed where Hamels pitched all that worse than Lincecum did in Game 1…7IP 6 H 3 ER for Lincecum in game 1 while Hamels went 6 IP, 5 H and 3 ER today. Oswalt 8 IP, 3 H and 1 ER on Sunday night. Cain pitched a great game today. Tomorrow, the Phillies will win and even the series up at 2-2. Thursday, Halladay will throw a gem and the offense will scratch out a run or two and take the series to 3-2. Then it comes back to CBP and they hammer Sanchez to win 4-2.

      If they don’t, then I’ll tip my cap to the Giants. Until then, Phillies in 6. But a definite tip of the cap to Cain…he was brilliant today.

      • dkmuldoon - Oct 19, 2010 at 11:34 PM

        I didn’t say Hamels pitched poorly. I said that it’s silly to act like the Giants pitchers pitching better in the series is a huge shock.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 19, 2010 at 11:49 PM

        I wasn’t responding to you…I was responding to Reflex who said Hamels was a step down from Lincecum/Halladay aces when, in fact, he pitched as well as Lincecum and Halladay in game 1. And last series, he did throw a 5 hit shutout so he didn’t exactly get rocked there either. Both Hamels AND Oswalt had superior years to Lincecum this season, so to say they are not as good as Lincecum at this point is ludicrous. Oswalt pitched better than everyone but Cain in Game 2, so to rip him right now is insane as well.

        Cain pitched incredible today, and he deserves all the accolades he gets. The Phillies hitters couldn’t do anything. They better do something tomorrow against the kid or they won’t get this series back to Philly

      • God Himself Can't Make Me Root for the Yanks, But Fiorentino Might - Oct 20, 2010 at 1:20 AM

        Oh thou who art as a god to me…
        Sorry, Chris, but it is ludicrous to say that Hamels or Oswalt are as good as Lincecum. Forget any real analysis (’cause past experience tells me you are impervious to rational analysis), just ask 30 MLB GM’s (or 30 baseball analysts, or 30 baseball blog writers, or 30 baseball blog readers, whatever):
        “You have a pitching staff of Hamels, Oswalt, and Lincecum. Who’s your ace?”
        Sure, in any of those groups they’ll get some dissenting votes, but in any of them the overwhelming answer is the guy not wearing Phillies colors. Hell, ask 30 Phillies fans the same question, and I’m still not sure you’ll get a different answer.

      • Reflex - Oct 20, 2010 at 1:21 AM

        Admitting a pitcher is a solid #2 is not ‘ripping them’. Hamels is a great complement to a true ace like Halladay. But is he better than Matt Cain? Not in my opinion. And I think someone would have to be insane to take him over Tim Lincecum, winner of the last two Cy Youngs and who’s career worst year this season is one most other pitchers would die to have.

        Oswalt is having a year on par with his classic seasons. But do I really think he’s on Halladay’s level? No. Is he chopped liver? Of course not. But he’s clearly the weakest link of the big three, and I’d be shocked if next season he didn’t gain at least a half a run on his ERA. Good guy, but he’s at the tail end of his career. If the Phils are smart they’ll let himi play out his contract and then walk off into the sunset or some team who needs a solid vet.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 20, 2010 at 10:40 AM

        Hey Douchenozzles, what I said was this…”Hamels and Oswalt had better years than LIncecum, so to say Lincecum is far and away better than either of them RIGHT NOW is ludicrous.” And I stand by what I said. Oswalt and Hamels have pitched every bit as good as Lincecum RIGHT NOW in THIS POSTSEASON!!! Jesus Christ…read what I wrote before making stupid comments. If you asked me today who I would want from the three for the next 10 years, then sure I would take LIncecum, with Hamels a close second. But TODAY…for THIS POSTSEASON, I’ll take any of the three. Lincecum hasn’t been all world…one great game and one shaky game…same as Hamels…same as Oswalt..same as Halladay. There’s only one GOD THIS POSTSEASON has and he is pitching for the Texas Rangers and his name is Cliff Lee.

      • God Himself Can't Make Me Root for the Yanks, But Fiorentino Might - Oct 20, 2010 at 12:10 PM

        Well, Fiorentino, I was also talking about right now. Ask those 30 GM’s, 30 baseball analysts, etc, etc, “RIGHT NOW,” today, who would be their ace… the overwhelming majority would still pick Lincecum – and your claim would still be ludicrous. And your claim doesn’t appear any less ludicrous when you use more capital letters.

  2. proudlycanadian - Oct 19, 2010 at 7:56 PM

    The Giants win the pennant! The Giants Win the pennant! Just practicing!

    • Utley's Hair - Oct 20, 2010 at 1:34 AM

      I’ll be sure to tell Doc that you’ve turned on him.

      • proudlycanadian - Oct 20, 2010 at 7:46 AM

        Before baseball came to Canada, I was a Giants fan. Even if Doc wins his next game, Philadelphia has work to do.

  3. George - Oct 19, 2010 at 8:26 PM

    Gee, I hope Fiorentino doesn’t get *too* depressed.

    I can’t tell you how happy I’d be with a Giants-Rangers World Series.

    • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 19, 2010 at 11:10 PM

      You guys all come out of the woodwork after the fact. Grow some balls and say something BEFORE the games happen. No panic and no depression here. I still think the Phillies will win in 6.

      • Reflex - Oct 20, 2010 at 1:29 AM

        Meh, basic odds and looking at the teams told everyone Yanks/Phils was the most likely matchup. Not everyone gives a damn about ‘proving’ predictions which ultimatly are just wild guesses. I only care about predictions if someone puts the time and effort into an analysis that demonstrates why their prediction is going to play out. Just picking the favs and ‘predicting’ them is a list of your hopes. And like all guesses, sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong, but there is nothing impressive about them.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 20, 2010 at 10:42 AM

        OK, WTF are you talking about Reflex? Sorry, but sometimes you take things to an extreme that even Old Gator would be confused about. All I said was that idiots who like to come on for their first posts and rip me for predicting the Phillies would win should grow some balls and debate me BEFORE the games happen, not come on and gloat after the fact. Jesus my head hurts and it’s not even lunchtime yet.

      • Reflex - Oct 20, 2010 at 12:47 PM

        What is proven by debating beforehand? Are you using insightful analysis and careful consideration to come to your conclusion as opposed to rampant fanboyism? There is no ‘debate’ to be had in any sense of the word when you have zero objectivity. Everyone here could have guessed who you thought the world series winner would be on April 3rd. And we’ll know who you think will win next April too. Um, I’m impressed?

  4. BC - Oct 20, 2010 at 9:20 AM

    Cain just befuddles me. He can be dominant like he was yesterday, and then go dfisudfgisdfgasdrh the next time out. How you can be under .500 career with a 3.45 ERA is mystifying.

    • Reflex - Oct 20, 2010 at 4:49 PM

      Not if you understand that wins are not determined by the pitcher. Lots of great pitchers with poor records. The Giants had an anemic offense most of the season. Tough to get a Win when you give up about 3 and a half runs per nine but your team scores only two.

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