Matt Cain, Babe Ross help Giants take lead in NLCS

Aug. 12, 2010 - San Francisco, California, United States of America - 12 August, 2010: San Francisco Giants MATT CAIN.

I’m not a pitching coach and my hectic sports blogging schedule prevents me from ever becoming one, but if I may offer up some advice to the Phillies’ starting staff: Figure out a way – someway – to get Cody Ross out. Because dude is killing you.

Once again, Ross donned a red cape and an “S” on his chest for the Giants, as he singled home Edgar Renteria in the fourth inning to give his club a 1-0 lead. Aubrey Huff followed through with another single off starter Cole Hamels later in the inning and the Giants went on to beat the Phillies 3-0 to take a 2-1 lead in the 2010 NLCS.

Ross, who has to be the most unlikely postseason hero for the Giants (outside of Eugenio Velez – now that would be something), is now hitting .348 in the playoffs, with four home runs, seven RBI, eight hits, three runs scored and three walks. It’s amazing to think that he probably wouldn’t even be playing right now if it weren’t for Jose Guillen’s back injury.

Of course, if not for Matt Cain’s dazzling pitching performance, Ross’ latest heroics may not have mattered.

I’m running out of adjectives to describe the pitching that we’ve seen so far in the NCLS. Cain limited the Phillies to just two hits while pitching seven scoreless innings to pick up the first postseason win of his young career. He threw 119 pitches and while he walked three and hit two batters, he also struck out five and got in and out of jams all afternoon. It was also his first career win against the Phillies, who were shutout in the postseason for the first time since the 1983 World Series.

On the other side, it was a tough day for Chase Utley. Not only did he go o’fer gofer at the plate, but he also got his glove on two hits that led to a pair of Giants’ runs. He came up just short of gloving Huff’s RBI single in the fourth (it would have been a tough play even if had fielded it cleanly) and then Freddy Sanchez’s single took a wicked hop off his glove in the fifth to score Aaron Rowand.

Routine plays, they were not. But I can guarantee you a standout player like Utley will tell you he should have come up with the ball that Sanchez hit, whether it was a bad hop or not.

Now the Phillies have their work cut out for them, as manger Charlie Manuel said following the game that Joe Blanton will start Game 4 – not Roy Halladay. Blanton hasn’t lost since July 21 but he also hasn’t started a game since September 29 (a 7-1 win over the Nationals).

If the Giants can win Game 4, then they’ll be in great shape for the deciding Game 5 with Tim Lincecum on the hill. Granted, Halladay will once again be his opposition, but the Giants have already beaten “Doc” twice this season so apparently they have no idea he’s Roy Halladay.

It won’t be a “must win” for the Phillies on Wednesday night, but it’ll be as close to one as a team can get.

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