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First Phillies-Giants showdown of 2011 goes to Giants: A fan’s reaction
The Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants had a long-awaited reunion this week. But they won't have to wait nine months to meet again next time, when the Phillies visit San Francisco next weekend. And, of course, there's a good chance they will meet a third time in October, in another NLCS. Yet after the first meeting of 2011, and after San Francisco's off-field activities in the meantime, Philadelphia fans like myself have reason to stay weary of the champions.
After jumping out big over the Giants in the opening game, the Phillies reverted back to their October 2010 form on Wednesday and Thursday night. Despite having its way with much of the National League over the last two months, Philadelphia still hasn't proven quite that it can overtake San Francisco.
It was a notable statement that our first two-game losing streak in two months, and our first lost series in over a month, came at the hands of the Giants. Both losses were practically carbon copies of each other, as the Phillies got good pitching from Cole Hamels(notes) and Kyle Kendrick(notes), and the Giants got better efforts from Matt Cain(notes) and Tim Lincecum(notes). Philadelphia's previously hot bats were significantly cooled off, as all potential rallies were shut down, and Brian Wilson(notes) took care of the rest in the ninth.
This exact formula was followed by San Francisco in last year's NLCS, and still appears to be working. Yet the Giants' biggest win over the Phillies came outside of Citizens Bank Park, when San Francisco won the Carlos Beltran(notes) sweepstakes. Now that the champions have the big bat they've lacked, their chances for overtaking Philadelphia again got even better. However, the Giants didn't need him last season, and they didn't need him to win on Thursday night—so how much worse could it get if Beltran actually delivers?
This series defeat will give us Phillies fans a reason to worry, as it seems the Giants still have the psychological edge over us. Yet we didn't have Roy Halladay(notes) or Cliff Lee(notes) to throw at them, while the opposition got to rally behind Cain and Lincecum. As the rotation looks now, it looks like the Giants will avoid Halladay next weekend as well if things hold. But since Beltran will be settled in by then, and since all of Philadelphia's aces besides Halladay should pitch, that showdown should be a more telling sign for the future than this one was.
There's no question that San Francisco had the edge on and off the field this week, at least after Tuesday. But this was only the first chapter in what could be a trilogy of match-ups between the Phillies and Giants this season. If Philadelphia can get a split in the sequel, or even a 3-1 win, then it should settle whatever doubts the fans have right now.
Yet if this becomes a trilogy, only the October finale will really count, and that is still a long way off. Nevertheless, should the first two acts go to the Giants, the Phillies chances to steal that finale will look a little more ominous.
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