(Sports Network) – The San Francisco Giants try to lock down their first World Series appearance in eight years this evening when they play Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies at AT&T Park.
Attempting to secure just the team’s fourth pennant since moving to San Francisco in 1958 will be two-time defending NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, as he squares off against Roy Halladay in a rematch from Game 1.
“It’s exciting for any fan,” San Francisco catcher Buster Posey said. “Two of the best arms in the game.”
Lincecum got the best of Halladay the first time around, as he held the Phillies to three runs and six hits in seven innings to get the win. He also fanned eight and has struck out 22 batters in two starts this postseason.
While San Francisco is quite confident with its ace on the hill there is no one else the Phillies would rather have going for them in an elimination game than Halladay, the front-runner for this year’s NL Cy Young Award.
“This is the guy that I want to have the ball. He always finds a way to show what he’s all about,” Phils outfielder Shane Victorino said. “[Thursday] night, he’s going to go out there, work hard, be himself and be the horse that he was when we got him.”
Halladay, though, allowed eight hits and four runs in eight innings to lose Game 1 of this series following his no-hitter over the Cincinnati Reds to open the postseason.
“I’m looking for great things out of Roy. I can tell you the last time he had a bad game, he came back and shut the other team down. It’s not that he went out there and had a horrible game [in Game 1], but in his mind, that’s not the Roy Halladay that he wants to be.”
However, including the NLCS matchup, Halladay has gone 0-3 with a 6.66 ERA in four career starts against the Giants.
“I know what I have to do,” Halladay said. “My job’s to execute pitches. You obviously don’t beat a team single-handedly. You do it as a team. That’s something we’ve done all year. We’ve beat teams as a team.”
The Giants have stunned the two-time defending NL champions through the first four games of this series and continued to do so on Wednesday with a thrilling win, as Juan Uribe hit a sacrifice fly off Roy Oswalt to score Aubrey Huff in the ninth inning, giving San Francisco a dramatic 6-5 victory and a 3-1 edge in the series.
History is on the side of the Giants, who are now on the brink of their first World Series appearance since losing in seven games to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2002. Of the 30 previous teams to assume a 3-1 lead since the LCS went to a seven- game format in 1985, 24 have proceeded to the World Series
This is the third time 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.
“We’re in a good position,” Posey said. “But at the same time, we know anything can happen in baseball. I don’t think we take anything for granted.”
The combination of Huff and Posey went 7-for-10 with three RBI and hit consecutive one-out singles in the ninth off Oswalt (1-1), who was brought in after the Phillies used four relievers over the previous 3 1/3 innings.
“We have to try to win it as soon as possible,” right-hander Sergio Romo said. “Those guys [the Phillies], they want it and they’re going to give it their best as well. One win is kind of hard to get at times.”
Brian Wilson (1-0) and Uribe entered on a double switch in the ninth and the latter made a terrific play in the field to start the inning, as he ranged to his right and threw an off-balanced throw that narrowly beat pinch-hitter Ross Gload at first.
The Phillies went quietly after that, and Oswalt, the winning pitcher in Game 2 and scheduled starter if there is Game 6 on Saturday, allowed a single to Huff past Ryan Howard. Posey hit a ball that just went foul in the right-field corner before the Rookie of the Year candidate laced a base hit that Jayson Werth cut off at the warning track in right.
“He told [pitching coach Rich] Dubee that he could go,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Oswalt. “He said he wanted to be in there and that he was glad to go.”
Uribe, who suffered a bruised left wrist in the series opener, was able to get the ball deep enough to left that there wasn’t a play at the plate, sending AT&T Park into a frenzy.
“I felt comfortable putting Juan out there. We had the right guy at the plate. He’s come through so many times for us,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Placido Polanco went 2-for-3 and knocked in two runs for the two-time defending NL champion Phillies, who must win the next three games to become the first NL team to advance to three straight World Series since the 1942-44 St. Louis Cardinals.
There have been two recent teams to rally from such a deficit. The 2007 Boston Red Sox overcame a 3-1 advantage to the Cleveland Indians in 2007 and the 2003 Florida Marlins came back to win their series with the Chicago Cubs after being down two games.
Both the Red Sox and Marlins went on to win the World Series that year.
“We’ve got Halladay going against Lincecum,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. “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.”
The Phillies split their six matchups with the Giants this season and since the start of the 2000 campaign, the teams are 36-36 against one another.