SAN FRANCISCO -- Cody Ross earned the National League Championship Series MVP because of his consistent hitting and game-changing power.With all due respect to Ross, though, the hardware easily could have gone to someone else. "You can honestly say that [Javier] Lopez was our MVP in the NLCS," Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff said after the Giants' 9-0 win in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday. "He came in and pitched to [Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard] and [Phillies second baseman Chase Utley]. He's been pitching to left-handed guys since we got him. I don't know how many runs he's given up, but it can't be many." Well, Aubrey, since you asked, here's the answer: Since being acquired by the Giants from Pittsburgh in a Trade Deadline deal, Lopez has allowed only four runs in 24 1/3 innings. In the postseason, Lopez has been nearly unhittable. In 5 2/3 innings spanning nine appearances, Lopez has faced 18 batters and allowed only one hit -- a double by Howard in Game 4 of the NLCS. He's also walked only one batter, while striking out six.
If that isn't impressive in itself, here are a few of the batters Lopez has faced: Howard (1-for-5, three strikeouts), Utley (0-for-5, one strikeout), Placido Polanco (0-for-3) and Jayson Heyward (0-for-2, two strikeouts). On Thursday, Lopez added Josh Hamilton to the list, getting the Rangers' American League MVP candidate to fly out to center in the eighth inning."He's unbelievable. He's come in and I think he's given up one hit this postseason," Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez said. "He's been lights-out. When he comes in against those lefties, he attacks the zone, mixes up his pitches, mixes up his arm angles, and he's just tough to hit. He's done a tremendous job for us in big situations." Despite the praise Giants teammates heap on Lopez -- who closer Brian Wilson called the best left-handed specialist in baseball -- the 33-year-old reliever is quick to point out he's only in the game for a couple outs. And while that's true, Lopez often comes in for the biggest outs of the game against the opposing team's best hitter. In the World Series, that's Hamilton, who batted .350 with four home runs against the Yankees in the ALCS. Although Lopez knows facing Hamilton will be his specialty this series, he said he tries to downplay the matchup as much as possible. "It is just a single matchup. When you come in, it comes down to it that they have some great right-handed bats behind him," Lopez said. "Those guys are just as important, if not more important, than Josh to me. He just had such a great series against the Yankees and you know what he can bring to the table. I appreciate the fact that is a key matchup, but I understand there are more important ones than that." One battle into that key matchup and the pitcher has the edge. "It's coming from a different angle," Hamilton said of Lopez's delivery. "It's coming from the left side, kind of comes out of nowhere. I feel like I had a good at-bat on him. I got ahead on him. Next pitch, I hit it well. I just got under it." After Thursday's win, Lopez said he used some of the same tactics against Hamilton as he did against other top lefty sluggers he faced this postseason. Still, Lopez admitted that Hamilton is on a bit of a different level than the others. "He does bring different stuff to the table. ... He's a tremendous player," Lopez said. "He's got all the tools and you just try to game plan the best you can and just try to come up with something that will work. Again, I only threw two pitches to him." Two pitches, sure. But they also led to one out and eventual a 2-0 World Series lead for the Giants.
Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.