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10/15/10 6:06 PM ET
Phillies' bats offer more than background noise
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies were built to hit, yet somehow the storylines surrounding their latest entry to the National League Championship Series are all about the pitching. That's what happens when you have a trio of aces. Yes, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels for the Phillies against Tim Lincecum and a Giants staff that posted Major League Baseball's lowest ERA makes for compelling October matchups. Saturday's Game 1 is being billed as a duel for the ages, with both Halladay and Lincecum coming off outings considered among the best in postseason history. But it's not as if the hitters are going to sit at home and watch on television. Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino made that point earlier this week, and he had more to say on Friday. "Yeah, everybody knows how good our pitching is -- or how good the pitching is in this series," Victorino said. "But don't forget how good some of these offenses could be. Our team was built on offense. If you told me a year ago that we would have been talking about pitching over our hitting, what would you have told me?" He answered himself."You probably would have said I was crazy," he said. Jimmy Rollins doesn't mind seeing so much of the attention being focused on the mound. "I couldn't care less, personally," Rollins said. "It's the truth that we have some great arms on the mound in this series. There's no doubt about that, and that doesn't take anything away from either team's offense. It just means that good pitching is going to beat good hitting." And let's be clear: The Phillies have good hitting, even in a year marred by injuries. Rollins, Victorino, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz all hit the disabled list for various ailments, yet Philadelphia, hitting in cozy Citizens Bank Park, still managed to rank second among NL clubs in runs scored (772), fourth in OPS (.745) and fifth in slugging percentage (.413). Only the Reds, dispatched by the Phillies in the NL Division Series, scored more regular-season runs. The Phillies outscored the Reds, 13-4, in a three-game Division Series sweep. But the Giants, on paper at least, pose a stiffer challenge, with Lincecum coming off his 14-strikeout gem against the Braves, left-hander Jonathan Sanchez on a serious roll and Matt Cain looming in Game 3.
That trio combined to post a 1.98 ERA in four starts against the Phillies during the regular season. "At this point in the playoffs, every No. 1 starter is pretty dominant or they wouldn't be in this position," Utley said. "So I understand the amount of attention the pitchers are getting, because they deserve it. It's going to be an exciting series." During the regular season, the Phillies hit just .226 with a .308 on-base percentage and a .362 slugging percentage against the Giants. But the postseason is a new season -- a new opportunity to make something happen. "We try not to get caught up in the hype," Utley said. "There's a reason we got to this point, and we should stick with that." Utley & Co. have experience on their side against the unproven Giants. Howard, Rollins, Ruiz, Utley and Victorino have each played in 35 postseason games, all since 2007. Only two Giants players have appeared in more than 20 postseason games: Edgar Renteria, who has appeared in 57, and Pat Burrell, who has played in 21, though 17 of those were with the Phillies. Rollins said he was not sure what role experience would play in the series. He does know that the Phillies are going to have to take advantage of every scoring chance they get. "You have to execute when you have the opportunity," Rollins said, "because you know you're probably not going to get too many chances. When you can make those chances turn into a few runs, that could be very good for you. "There are going to be some home runs, believe me," Rollins added. "I don't care if it's Cy Young out there, somebody's going to hit some home runs. How many? We'll see." If history holds, Lincecum could have his hands full on Saturday night. Since winning the 2008 World Series, the Phillies have scored at least four runs in all four of their Game 1s, while outscoring opponents, 23-8. Three of those games have been routs. The Phillies beat the Rockies, 5-1, in Game 1 of the '09 NL Division Series and the Yankees, 6-1, in Game 1 of the '09 World Series. They beat the Reds last week in Game 1 of the '10 Division Series, 4-0. "There's been a lot said about the pitching, but if we get going, what are people going to say?" Victorino asked. "They'll say, 'Well, here goes that offense.' We haven't been able to do that all year, but it's never too late. That's how I'm looking at it."
Good with a lead