SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – It would seem another Roy Halladay-Tim Lincecum pitching matchup could not generate nearly as much hype and anticipation than what preceded the first-ever meeting between the two aces to open the NL championship series.
However, with San Francisco on the verge of clinching its first pennant in eight years, that’s very possible this time.
Facing elimination, Halladay and the visiting Philadelphia Phillies look to prevent Lincecum and the Giants from reaching the World Series in Game 5 on Thursday.
Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel decided against bringing back Halladay on three days’ rest for Game 4. Now, he will have the 21-game winner fresh to face the two-time reigning NL Cy Young award winner for this crucial contest after Juan Uribe’s sacrifice fly off reliever Roy Oswalt in the ninth inning Wednesday gave San Francisco a 6-5 win and 3-1 series lead.
“Two of the best arms in the game,” San Francisco rookie catcher Buster Posey said. “We’re in a good position. But at the same time, we know anything can happen in baseball.”
The Giants, who have not won a World Series since 1954 when the franchise was in New York, are in good position to make their first appearance in the Fall Classic since losing in seven games to the Angels in 2002.
“Those are the things that people dream of,” Lincecum said. “We know what we’re capable of. We have a lot of confidence here.”
Philadelphia, meanwhile, is trying to get this series back home, where it has won three of its last four postseason games.
“We know what is at stake, but the game is the same,’ shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. “We have an opportunity to win a game (Thursday).”
That likely won’t be easy, even with Halladay on the mound.
The right-hander, who threw a no-hitter in his postseason debut against Cincinnati in Game 1 of the NL division series Oct. 6, hopes for a better effort after he allowed four runs, two homers and struck out seven in seven innings of a 4-3 loss to the Giants to open the NLCS on Saturday.
Lincecum earned the win in that contest after he gave up three runs and struck out eight in seven innings of a pitching matchup that never seemed to live up to the pregame hype.
Though Halladay is 0-3 with a 6.66 ERA in four starts against the Giants covering the regular season and postseason, he does not plan to change his approach in the biggest game of the year for the two-time defending NL champions.
“My job’s to execute pitches. And you obviously don’t beat a team single-handedly,” Halladay said. “You do it as a team. That’s something we’ve done all year. We’ve beat teams as a team. And I need to do a better job on my end of making good pitches.
“I know what I need to do. And it’s just a matter of going out and doing it.”
Lincecum also won’t put any added pressure on himself.
“Just approach it like any game,” he said. “I guess, just try to take it relaxed and poised and keep myself together.”
The right-hander hopes to stymie a Philadelphia club that snapped its 14-inning scoreless drought with a four-run fifth inning to take a 4-2 lead Wednesday.
Philadelphia is batting .216 with two homers and has struck out 40 times in the series. Despite 11 coming Wednesday, the Phillies showed signs of life with nine hits after being held to three in a 3-0 loss in Game 3.
Placido Polanco went 2 for 3 with two RBIs and Ryan Howard hit his third double of the series. Howard has three career home runs against Lincecum.
Posey went 4 for 5 with two RBIs and Pablo Sandoval had a two-run double in the sixth to give the Giants a 5-4 lead Wednesday. Sandoval, who hit a disappointing .268 during the regular season, was making his first start in the series while Uribe nursed a sore wrist.
Cody Ross continued his stellar postseason with a double and scored Wednesday. The outfielder, acquired off waivers from Florida in August, is batting .346 with four homers and seven RBIs in the playoffs.
Uribe, who is 2 for 21 with three RBIs but has played well defensively in the postseason, could be back in the lineup for Game 5.
“Who doesn’t want to play now? I want to be here,” Uribe said.
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