PHILADELPHIA -- It's hardly a stretch to imagine the Phillies and Giants back at Citizens Bank Park in October, playing in considerably chiller weather for the right to represent the National League in the World Series.
They did it just last year.
They could do it again. The Phillies have the best record in baseball, while the Giants have a nice lead in the National League West and Carlos Beltran arriving Thursday to help solve their offensive woes. They are two teams loaded with great pitching who have represented the National League in the previous three World Series, winning two of them.
Care to bet against them?
"Any time you play the Giants they have great pitching, a great bullpen," Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels said after Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Giants. "Pitching is what holds together your team and if you have good pitching, you're going to limit a good offense. That's kind of what they did. We've obviously been hitting really well, but when you face a really good pitcher they can definitely put everything at a standstill."
Giants right-hander Matt Cain allowed four hits, one unearned run and one walk and struck out one in seven innings. The Phillies had been hitting .273 and averaging 5.7 runs per game this month until they ran into Cain.
Cain actually drew a little inspiration from last October to beat the Phillies. He said he studied video of Game 3 of the 2010 National League Championship Series, when he allowed just two hits in seven scoreless innings to beat the Phillies at AT&T Park.
"I definitely think [it helped] being able to look back at that game and try to remember some of the pitches and with the video, to try to help go into the game with some confidence," Cain said.
He beat Hamels that night, too. Hamels allowed three runs in six innings in Game 3 last year. He allowed six hits, two runs and one walk and struck out six in 7 2/3 innings Wednesday.
"He definitely pitched good enough to win," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
The Giants took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Eli Whiteside singled and scored on Aaron Rowand's two-out triple into the right-field corner.
The 1-1 fastball to Rowand had Hamels fuming.
"I thought it was the right pitch to throw to him. I thought I left it up just a little bit," he said. "When you give up that sort of hit, you know it's extra bases. And with two outs, I just knew from the moment Aaron hit it, the guy was pretty much going to score. You don't want to give up the first run, especially with Cain pitching just because it could be the one run that matters."
Hamels retired 10 of the next 12 batters he faced until he got into trouble in the seventh. He allowed a leadoff double to Jeff Keppinger and walked Cody Ross to put runners on first and second with no outs. Nate Schierholtz followed with a sinking line drive to right field. Phillies rookie Domonic Brown took an awkward route to the ball, but compensated and tried to make a diving catch.
"I thought I had a good bead on it," Brown said. "After I saw I wasn't going to catch it, I just tried to keep it in front of me and get a hand on it and do whatever I could do to save that run. But it got past me a little bit."
Keppinger scored on the play to make it 2-0. Brown said he wasn't sure if Keppinger would have scored had he kept the ball in front of him, but it certainly seemed like he could have held him at third.
A pitch to Rowand in the third and Brown's miscue in the seventh helped the Giants scratch across a couple of runs.
One or two plays mean a lot with two great pitchers on the mound. The Phillies know this. They watched the Giants beat them in six games last year. If they meet again they hope to turn the tables. They did not Wednesday night.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.