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10/20/10 6:33 PM ET
Pair of aces re-dealt for NLCS Game 5
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
It's Tim Lincecum-Roy Halladay redux in Thursday's Game 5 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park with a different twist. Now that the Giants own a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, Lincecum can pitch his club into the World Series for the first time since 2002. Halladay, who has a postseason no-hitter and a regular-season perfect game to his credit in this his first year with the Phillies, can pitch his club back to Game 6 in Philadelphia on Saturday night. "We've got Halladay going against Lincecum," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel after the Giants won Wednesday's Game 4, 6-5, on Juan Uribe's walk-off sacrifice fly. "And I'd say if we like to play with our backs against the wall, it's there now. I think we're standing right there now. They were asking me today about that, whether we like to play with our backs to the wall. I think we're going to get a chance." History favors the Giants. Of the 30 previous teams to take a 3-1 lead since the LCS went to a best-of-seven format in 1985, 24 have gone to the World Series. The last team to come back from that deficit in the NL was the 2003 Marlins against the Cubs. The last team to do it in the American League was the 2007 Red Sox over the Indians. So there is indeed precedence. Both those clubs went on to win the World Series that season. "It's just a case where you go out there, play your best game and you see what happens," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We know we're facing one of the best pitchers in the game. But we can't focus on the future. All we can focus on is what we have to do [Thursday]." The two former Cy Young Award winners faced off on Saturday night in Game 1 to much hype at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park. Cody Ross homered twice off Halladay, whose postseason no-hit streak ended at 11 1/3 innings on the first one. Lincecum was pelted for homers by Carlos Ruiz and Jayson Werth.Lincecum defeated Halladay, 4-3, but the series was in its infancy. Thursday, one team can go home, so the stakes are much higher. The Giants now have three shots at winning a berth in the World Series. The Phillies must play day-to-day. Thus, the pressure is certainly on Halladay. "You always want to go out and keep pitching," Halladay said. "I was hoping my next chance would be in the next round of the playoffs. But we feel like we have a good team. And we feel like when we're playing well together, we can go a long way. So we still have that confidence, and I think each player has that confidence. It's just a matter of going out and doing it. I'm definitely looking forward to the opportunity. I think all our guys are looking forward to the opportunity of continuing to play." This is the third occasion that the Giants have held a 3-1 lead in the NLCS, and they were victorious the first two times, winning both series in five games at home. In 1989, the Giants defeated the Cubs when they played at Candlestick Park, and in 2002, they beat the Cardinals right here at what was then called Pac Bell Park. They lost the World Series both times -- to the A's and the Angels, respectively. Once again, though, expectations are very high among the fan base and in the clubhouse. The Giants haven't won the World Series since 1954, when they played in New York's old Polo Grounds and swept the Indians. So the longing for a San Francisco-based World Series championship is indeed palpable. But expectations have been dashed so many times before. "Oh, man. I guess if you're a Giants fan, it will be pretty exciting," said Giants catcher Buster Posey, whose four hits on Wednesday was only the second time that it's been done by a rookie in 32 years of LCS play. "It's exciting for any fan. Two of the best arms in the game. We're in a good position. But at the same time, we know anything can happen in baseball. I don't think we take anything for granted." Then there's the view from the opposing clubhouse, from the closer of the two-time defending NL champions and 2008 World Series winners, who aren't ready to end that run. No NL team has won three consecutive pennants since the 1942-44 Cardinals. "We feel very confident," Brad Lidge said. "We're trying not to look at it as three games; we're trying to look at it as win [Thursday] with Roy Halladay on the mound. That seems pretty manageable. [The Giants] will be fired up, and Lincecum will probably throw the ball pretty good, but we've got Roy Halladay on the mound and we like our chances."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.