Giants righthander Tim Lincecum will be matched up against Roy Halladay, who only pitched a no-hitter his last time out. At cozy Citizens Bank Park, which might be a wind-aided launching pad if the weather forecasts are correct. In front of a rabid, towel-twirling, sell-out crowd.
"You always want to keep your pitches down," Lincecum, who will start Game 1 of the National League Championship Series tonight, said casually yesterday. "That's usually the game plan. I'm sure that's how it is for most pitchers. You get hurt if you leave the ball up.
"I get to face Halladay, what, once every nine at-bats? It's not so much him we're worried about. Obviously, our hitters are. But I'm worried more about pitch execution to guys like [Ryan] Howard and guys like [Chase] Utley. And that's more in the back of my mind."
Lincecum has good reason to be confident, of course. He won the NL Cy Young Award in 2008 and 2009. While his overall numbers this year were off, in his last six starts for the regular season he was 5-1, with a 1.94 earned run average. In Game 1 of the NL Division Series against Atlanta, he pitched a two-hit shutout, striking out 14.
He added that the blister that developed on his right middle finger during his last start shouldn't be an issue, either. "It's fine. It's callused over," he said.
This time it counts
Pat Burrell returned to Philadelphia with the Giants in August, got a standing ovation, and hit a couple of home runs. But with a trip to the World Series on the line, it's doubtful his reception will be quite as warm this time around.
And Burrell expects the first two games of this series to be unlike anything most of his new teammates have experienced before.
"This crowd, the intensity of playing here, is different than anywhere I've ever been. It will be a test for our club to see how we handle it. This is a hostile place to play as a visiting player," he said. "And [the Phillies] are confident. They've been here before, and we haven't. So we've got to go out there and play to the best of our ability and see what happens.
"You try to give guys perspective on what we're coming into. But I think you've got to experience it on your own. Hopefully, we're prepared for that.
"I did say the other day that if you're bringing your wives and families and you're going to be sitting in the family section, it's in your best interest to just buy an Utley jersey and put it on. Obviously, I'm joking. But, you know, the fans here are tough. They take pride in that. And that's what makes it special."
The Giants rightfielder has consistently taken responsibility for his inability to adjust to being the designated hitter in Tampa Bay, which led to his release in May. He spoke at length on the subject yesterday, saying that he tried everything from hitting in the cage to not hitting in the cage to riding the stationary bike, to no avail.
"I can remember being in the batting cage, setting up like a fielder and watching on TV and moving with the pitch like I was playing. But there's no way to re-create it. There just isn't," he said.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he won't announce until today whether Pablo Sandoval or Mike Fontenot will start at third base. Each started twice in the NLDS. "I think it's fair to say that [Sandoval] was searching with his swing. He probably lost a little bit of confidence. It's been an up-and-down season for him," Bochy said. "We still think a lot of Pablo, [but] we just felt at that point [acquiring Fontenot from the Cubs] would give us a little more discipline, a little more range."