By Joseph Santoliquito
Thirty years ago, there was something that just didn’t sit right with a legendary coach as his team was about to take on the red-clad world beaters. Something intangible the coach couldn’t quite put his finger on, yet kept repeating to his inner circle.
“They don’t look right, someone is going to beat those guys, they just don’t look right,” USA Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks said before his college upstarts shocked the world and made history in beating the Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
There may not be many similarities in that sports anecdote, but the Phillies are red-clad world beaters, which no one in this city would dispute. They’re receiving great pitching, which no one will debate, either. But there is a similarity in what Brooks said then, and what anyone watching this Phillies team can’t ignore now—they’re not playing the way they should be—winning by attrition, getting on errors and not exactly stinging the ball all over the place.
Six of the Phils’ last seven runs were unearned in the divisional series sweep against the Reds, who seemed to do more for the Phillies’ offense than the Phils did for themselves.
The Giants are different.
For one, they won’t throw the ball around. Secondly, you can throw out post-season experience. The Phillies have it. The Giants don’t. So what. Not one of the Giants’ starting pitchers, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and rookie Madison Bumgarner, has ever been this deep in the postseason. Neither has Roy Halladay and he’s only been the premier player in the postseason so far. We all know what he’s done since. Sure, the lights are a little brighter and the glare more intense in the postseason, but do you think Giants’ Game One starter Lincecum will buckle under the swirling white towels at Citizens Bank Park Saturday night and give up 10 runs in the first inning?
Does anyone see that really happening?
What is fact is this: Jimmy Rollins is playing hurt and struggling. Ryan Howard hasn’t hit a home run in almost a month (his last came on Sept. 18th). The Giants won’t flounder around, tossing the ball all over the place and lose it “in the lights,” as Reds’ right fielder Jay Bruce explained after his Game 2 snafu helped the Phils win.
It should be noted that the Giants aren’t exactly an offensive juggernaut. They scored the fewest amount of runs in the NLDS in beating Atlanta in four games—but that stat comes with a caveat: The Giants also gave up the fewest amount of runs in the NLDS, too.
Another interesting factoid is Halladay’s first loss this season came against the Giants, in only start this year against San Francisco. It was one of Halladay’s worst of the season, when he allowed five runs on 10 hits in a 5-1 Phillies’ loss, on April 26 at San Francisco. The Phillies were a different team then, mired in a 3-7 spell when they visited San Francisco. Again, showing little offense.
Much as changed since then. Some of it hasn’t. The Phillies are winning. But something isn’t quite right with the Phils. Their fans seem blinded by it, the media that covers them seem to think they’re infallible, and the Phillies themselves, you have the sense, feel Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels will answer everything.
But can they hit?
Prediction: Giants in 7
CBS Philly author bio: Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area. He’s the Managing Editor of Ring Magazine, there since October 1997. He also covers high school and college sports for the Philadelphia Daily News, and has written notable front-page stories on disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy, and on the winning battle Boston College’s Mark Herzlich waged against cancer. Santoliquito is best known nationally for his stunning portrayal of a high school wrestler overcoming the tragic killing of his parents in an award-winning ESPN.com piece in 2006 that also appeared on SportsCenter and later on HBO’s Real Sports. He has been producing the popular blog on 610WIP.com since 2006. He can be reached at SantoliquitoCBSPhilly@yahoo.com.