PHILADELPHIA – As in life, timing is everything in baseball.
For the San Francisco Giants’ talented, young starting pitchers – Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain – the time may be right to bring down the favored Phillies in the best-of-7 National League Championship Series that begins Saturday at Citizens Bank Park.
After the Giants finished off Atlanta on Monday in the N.L. division series, the most frequently asked question by the media in their joyous locker room was: Can your Big Three match up against the Phillies’ Big Three of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels? The answer was, “Absolutely.”
“We know our strength is our pitching,” catcher Buster Posey, a contender for N.L. rookie of the year, said Monday after the Giants punched their ticket to the NLCS. “We’ve heard a lot of talk about how good the Phillies pitching is, and we have the guys to match up with them.”
Lincecum, Sanchez and Cain have been at their best when the Giants needed them the most. They had a combined 12-2 record after Sept. 1 in the regular season. The day after Halladay no-hit Cincinnati in Game 1 of the NLDS, Lincecum shut out the Braves on two hits and struck out 14.
Along with fourth starter Madison Bumgarner, a hard-throwing 21-year-old left-hander who would have the edge over Joe Blanton in a possible Game 4 matchup, Giants starters had a 0.93 ERA, struck out 36 and walked five against Atlanta.
As a staff, the Giants had the best ERA (3.36) and the most strikeouts (1,331) in the majors.
The Giants’ top four starters are homegrown, each drafted by the club. Lincecum is the ace and one of the most entertaining pitchers to watch because it’s remarkable that someone who looks like a roller-board dude can lead the N.L. with 231 strikeouts.
It will be understandable if Lincecum gets the once-over by security when he enters Citizens Bank Park for his anticipated matchup against Halladay in Saturday’s Game 1. He’s 5-foot-11 (maybe), weighs 170 pounds and has shoulder-length hair. He’s also only 26, yet he’s been the N.L. Cy Young Award winner the last two years.