Phillies let early scoring chances slip away
Club threatens in second, third, but can't post breakout frame
PHILADELPHIA -- When facing a legit ace like Tim Lincecum, players often say that you have to find a way to produce some early damage. The Phillies had their opportunities during Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night.
But after being dealt a 4-3 loss to the Giants, the Phillies were left to wonder how things might have been different if they had managed to give Roy Halladay some comfort by cashing in on the opportunities they created against Lincecum in the second and third innings.
"Our mindset every day is to go out there and try to score some runs," Phillies second baseman Chase Utley said. "We faced a pretty good pitcher tonight. He kept us off-balance a little bit. We were able to capitalize on a few mistakes. It just wasn't enough."
Making his second career postseason start, Lincecum certainly wasn't as dominant as when he notched 14 strikeouts and completed a shutout against the Braves in Game 1 of the NL Division Series. Instead, on the way to limiting the Phillies to three runs and six hits in seven innings, the two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner impressed with his damage control.
After each of the Giants' outfielders secured relatively loud outs in a perfect first inning, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard hit the first pitch in the bottom of the second to left-center field for a leadoff double. Jayson Werth followed with a strikeout that turned the tide for Lincecum, who ended the inning with Howard still on second base.
Carlos Ruiz opened Lincecum's 22-pitch third inning with a game-tying homer, and Halladay followed with a single. The resulting momentum fizzled when Lincecum induced a double-play grounder off the bat of leadoff hitter Shane Victorino, who has recorded just three hits in 18 at-bats during this postseason.
"I felt like we came out [strong] in the early part of the game -- first three innings, we hit some balls hard," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "Victorino led the game off, hit a ball hard. Then we got a couple of doubles. Then [it] seemed like Lincecum, he hung in there and he battled and he pitched pretty good. I felt like we had a chance there in the third, but we couldn't get a big two-out hit."
Victorino's double-play groundout proved more deflating when Lincecum surrendered a Placido Polanco double and walked Utley before striking out Howard, who had four hits (three doubles and a homer) in his five previous at-bats against the Giants' ace.
"You definitely want to swing the bats better," Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez said. "That's for sure. At the same time, you just have to stay after it, come back and keep fighting."
After his fourth-inning leadoff walk went unrewarded, Werth delivered a two-run sixth-inning homer to cut the Phillies' deficit to one run. But Lincecum, who hadn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his five most recent starts against the Phillies, buckled down again and sandwiched an Ibanez walk with strikeouts of Jimmy Rollins and Ruiz.
Lincecum, who was aided by the two solo homers Cody Ross hit off Halladay, ended his 113-pitch night with a perfect seventh inning.
"He got in some jams and made pitches when he had to," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I mean, that's a tough lineup. There's no relief throughout their lineup. They got a leadoff double, and he settled down and made pitches when he had to."
After the game, Manuel indicated he might move the switch-hitting Rollins up to the leadoff spot when his club faces Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez in Sunday night's Game 2. Rollins struck out three times Saturday and has just one hit in 15 at-bats through the first four games of this postseason.
But while watching his club hit just .212 (28-for-132) during the early portion, Manuel finds himself looking for ways to jump-start a powerful lineup that will spend the rest of this best-of-seven series challenged by San Francisco's talented pitching staff.
"We're capable of doing it," Manuel said. "It's up to us to do it."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.