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Giants

Pitching Matchups Creating National Buzz For NLCS

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(L-R) Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay (AP)

(L-R) Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay (AP)

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – When the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants meet in the NL championship series, runs could be awfully scarce.

These teams have perhaps the two best starting rotations in the majors. For the Phillies, it’s Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. For the Giants, it’s Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez.

The Phillies feature three aces who have 11 All-Star games, one Cy Young Award, one NLCS MVP award, one World Series MVP award, one perfect game and one no-hitter on their impressive resumes.

The Giants’ Big Three have combined for four All-Star games and two Cy Young Awards and a no-hitter of their own.

Game 1 is Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park. Get set for The Freak vs. Doc.

Lincecum, the two-time reigning NL Cy Young winner, is expected to start for the Giants. Halladay, the leading candidate to win his second Cy this year, should get the ball for the Phillies, even though manager Charlie Manuel wouldn’t commit to announcing his starter.

“They’re different sizes, different pitchers, really,” Manuel said. “They call (Lincecum) a freak. I don’t know if he’s a freak or not, but his style is different. I hear people talk about his mechanics, but he does everything the pitcher is supposed to do. He’s special. He’s got a tremendous changeup, fastball, breaking ball. And when he’s real good his command is good.

“Halladay, on the other hand, is bigger, stronger. He’s got more pitches, and I would say Halladay definitely has more command of the strike zone than Lincecum has. But on any given day he can be powerful, too,” Manuel said.

Halladay finished 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA in his first season in Philadelphia. He led the majors in wins, complete games (nine), shutouts (four) and innings (250 2-3).

Halladay threw a perfect game in May, and nearly matched that in his playoff debut. He tossed the second no-hitter in postseason history in Game 1 of the division series against Cincinnati.

“Big Roy is big Roy,” Manuel said.

Lincecum had an up-and-down year after emerging as the most dominant pitcher in the league in his first two full seasons. The hard-throwing righty rebounded in September after a career-worst five-start losing streak in August, and finished 16-10 with a 3.43 ERA.

In his playoff debut, Lincecum tossed a two-hitter in San Francisco’s 1-0 win over Atlanta in Game 1 of their series. He struck out 14 in a masterful performance.

“He’s the kind of guy that, he just goes out and he throws,” Phillies slugger Ryan Howard said. “I mean, he’s a great pitcher. It doesn’t seem that too much can really get to him. It’s just a matter of being patient, trying to get a good pitch to hit and taking what we can get.”

The Giants almost certainly will use Cain in Game 2, but it’s uncertain whether Oswalt or Hamels goes for Philadelphia. Oswalt had a so-so outing in Game 2 against the Reds while Hamels finished that series off with a five-hit shutout.

The Phillies might flip-flop the two because Oswalt has been more successful in San Francisco and it would give them a righty-lefty-righty split. Oswalt is 3-6 in 10 career starts at AT&T Park, but his ERA is 4.18 there. Hamels is 2-1 with a 6.12 ERA in four starts at the 11-year-old ballpark. He’s allowed at least four runs in each of his starts.

The addition of Oswalt – he was acquired in a trade with Houston on July 29 – significantly bolstered the Phillies’ rotation. The three-time All-Star was Philadelphia’s best pitcher down the stretch, and Hamels turned his game up after Oswalt’s arrival.

“Our pitching has been absolutely tremendous,” Manuel said. “When we got Roy Oswalt, that really set us off. I think our team, we feel like every day we go out there that it’s going to be a low-scoring game.

It’s just a matter of time until we really start putting runs on the board, and hopefully we start this series. But at the same time, this is the best pitching we’ve had since I’ve been here and our team should be good at pitching for at least the next few years.”

The Phillies finished sixth with a 3.67 ERA this season. They were sensational against the Reds, allowing the NL’s best-hitting team to score just three earned runs in the franchise’s first postseason sweep.

The Giants led the majors with a 3.36 ERA. They overmatched the injury-decimated Braves in the first round, posting a 1.66 ERA in four games, each decided by one run.

“We’ve got pitching, and pitching wins,” Giants left fielder Pat Burrell said.

Burrell, a member of the 2008 World Series champion Phillies, could’ve been referring to his former team, too.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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