Down 2-1, how will favored Phillies respond?
Veteran corps must rise to occasion in bid for third straight WS
SAN FRANCISCO -- A dominant pitching performance and timely hits were the recipe for the Giants in their 3-0 win Tuesday in Game 3, giving San Francisco a one-game edge over Philadelphia in the National League Championship Series.On Wednesday, the Giants will look to ride that momentum and the left arm of starter Madison Bumgarner as they make a bid to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Phillies will counter with right-hander Joe Blanton. Here are some storylines heading into Wednesday's Game 4, which is set for 7:30 p.m. ET, live on FOX. How will the Phillies respond? Throughout the past three years, Philadelphia has been the favorite in every NL postseason series it's played in. Entering the 2010 playoffs, the Phillies were in a similar position, tabbed by many as the favorites to not only make their third consecutive World Series, but also win their second Fall Classic in three seasons.
Now, the Phillies are down one game, on the road and, arguably, have the short end of the stick in Game 4's starting pitching matchup.It's situations such as these where the veteran corps of Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins can once again rise to the occasion. Can the Giants thrive outside of their underdog role? Although it'd be a bit of a stretch to call the Giants the favorites, someone who really wants to could certainly make the case. They have home-field advantage, the perceived pitching advantage in Game 4 and, pending a win, would have their ace, Tim Lincecum, on the mound in a potential clinching situation in Game 5 -- although, they'd also have to face Philadelphia's ace, Roy Halladay. Giants closer Brian Wilson admitted after Game 3 he thought about the possibility of going up 3-1 on Wednesday, but added it only quickly crossed his mind. "I don't think our team's getting caught up in the moment right now," Wilson said. "We're playing baseball the way we were taught to play." Will Blanton show any rust? Seventeen days. That's how long it's been since the Phillies starter last threw in a game situation, a one-inning outing in the season finale on Oct. 3. His last start was on Sept. 29. Both Blanton and Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel are confident the long layoff won't affect the right-hander, who has pitched in eight career postseason games as a starter and reliever with varying days of rest. "I think this time of year it's not that hard," Blanton said. "Actually, in the playoffs [last season], I was in the bullpen the first series and got a start in the second series. So there was a long stretch there. So it's not something that I haven't done before." Will Andres Torres rebound after his off-day? Prior to Tuesday's win, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Torres would be back in the lineup on Wednesday, but balked when asked about the lineup postgame. Regardless of Edgar Renteria's leadoff single that sparked the Giants' two-run fourth in Game 3, the fact of the matter is the Giants aren't a team that manufactures runs, and Torres is San Francisco's only true leadoff hitter. Torres, 32, has been one of this year's biggest feel-good stories, but because of his struggles in the postseason (3-for-26) and Game 2 of the NLCS (0-for-4 with four strikeouts), Bochy had no choice but to give the center fielder a break in Game 3. "I think sitting back, watching the game, will give him a break, especially mentally more than anything," Bochy said prior to Game 3. "I'll tell you, the kid's doing great, though. He was out here [Monday] and he's in a good frame of mind."
Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.