Freak Show – Halladay and Lincecum struggle during NLCS opener

By STEPHEN WILDMAN
Senior Baseball Insider — swildman@highhopesblog.com
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Halladay struggled and wasn't himself during Game 1 of the NLCS (photo: philly.com)

Saturday night’s Game 1 of the National League Championship Series featured two of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.  Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay have three Cy Young Awards between them, Halladay with one and Lincecum with two, and that number should soon be four with Halladay being the frontrunner to win his second for the 2010 season.

Both pitchers started Game 1 of the NLDS, Halladay against the Cincinatti Reds and Lincecum against the Atlanta Braves, with a combined line of 18 innings pitched, no runs against, two hits allowed, two walks and 22 strikeouts.  Both took the mound with their respective teams expecting to get the win in large part due to their efforts.  Yes, there was plenty of hype leading up to Saturday night.  And yes, it was all well deserved.

With all of this being said, neither Doc nor ‘The Freak’ lived up to their billing during Game 1 for strikingly similar reasons.  Both pitchers game up two homeruns, with Halladay giving up two solo shots to Giants’ outfielder Cody Ross, and Lincecum giving up a solo homerun to Carlos Ruiz and a two-run shot to Jayson Werth.  Neither one of them looked like the methodic, cold-hearted snipers that baseball fans are accustomed to.

Halladay gave up two homeruns to the opposing team’s eighth batter, Ross, for the first time in his career.  Both homeruns were on what looked like identical belt-high, inside fastballs that Ross seemed to be looking for the whole time.

Both homers given up by Lincecum were on fastballs off the plate, and both were hit to the opposite field.

The both left the game after seven innings pitched, and allowed a combined seven earned runs on 14 total hits.

The difference between the two aces during Saturday night’s game was a double off the bat of Pat Burrell, which scored a run, followed by an RBI single from Juan Uribe that proved to be the game-winning hit for the Giants.  Halladay thought he had Burrell struck out on an 0-2 pitch that was called a ball.  He was so confident the pitch was a strike that he was walking off the mound as soon as the ball left his hand.  Burrell blasted the very next pitch to deep right field.  It was a ball that , perhaps, should have been caught by leftfielder Raul Ibanez as he crashed into the wall with the ball bouncing off of his glove.

With the hype leading up to Game 1, it would be a pleasure if these two monsters could meet again in a potential Game 5.  Charlie Manuel announced that Joe Blanton would pitch Game 4, however, he could change his mind if the situation calls for it and throw Halladay to the mound on short rest.  Lincecum definitely won’t pitch again until Game 5, as the Giants have an effective rookie left-hander in Madison Bumgarner throwing Game 4.

With the Game 1 loss, the Phillies find themselves down 1-0 in a playoff series for the first time in the last seven series, dating back to the NLDS versus the Colorado Rockies in 2007.

While Game 1 didn’t fully live up to the hype leading up to it, it was certainly a pleasure to witness two ridiculous pitchers battling for their teams to win the biggest game of both their careers.  Obviously, this series is about more than just two players.  However, if these two were heavy-weight prizefighters, round one goes to Lincecum.  We all want to see a round two and, hopefully, we’ll all get to see just that a few days way.

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