NLCS Game 2 Preview: Giants at Phillies

The San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies take the field tonight for a Game 2 matchup featuring Jonathan Sanchez and Roy Oswalt on the mound. San Francisco won the first game of the series 4-3, and if history is any indication, the Giants now have a distinct advantage in the series. The winner of Game 1 in the NLCS has won the series 15 of the last 17 years, including the last three.

The Giants have struggled recently in Game 2s in the postseason, having dropped eight of their last nine such matchups. Even worse, they’ve rarely had success in Game 2s on the road, with a 3-11-2 all-time record. The Phillies won Game 2 in the NLDS this year, but prior to that they had lost their previous four Game 2s in the postseason.

Jonathan Sanchez

SanchezJonathan Sanchez

Bruce Bochy rearranged his rotation for the NLCS, moving left-hander Jonathan Sanchez up to start Game 2 so that he would be able to alternate right- and left-handed pitchers in the series. But that’s likely not the only reason he wanted Sanchez to start in the pivotal Game 2.

The southpaw was brilliant against the Phillies this year winning both of his starts while posting a 1.38 ERA and striking out 13 batters in 13 innings. He was even better in his lone start at Citizens Bank Park, allowing just two hits and one run in eight strong innings.

Sanchez has also been dominant down the stretch for the Giants. After going 4-1 with a 1.03 ERA in his final seven starts of the regular season, he pitched a gem in Game 3 of the NLDS, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning and setting the Giants record for most strikeouts by a lefty in a postseason game with 11.

Key Matchups

Sanchez held lefties to a .181 average this season, the third-best among NL starters, so its no surprise that he’s had a lot of success in his career against three key left-handed bats in the Phillies lineup - Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez and Ryan Howard. The trio is just 6-31 (.194) vs Sanchez, including 0-8 with two strikeouts this season

Lowest Opp BA vs Phillies
Active pitchers

Sanchez has held the Phillies to a .175 batting average over 34⅔ career innings in nine appearances (five starts). That’s the best among active pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched against Philadelphia. But if you change the qualifier to five starts, Sanchez ranks second-best in the last 55 years, trailing only Floyd Youmans, and 10 points better than Sandy Koufax, who is fourth (.185).

Roy Oswalt

Charlie Manuel made no changes to his rotation, giving Oswalt the start in Game 2 at home. One reason could be his struggles at AT&T Park, where he is just 3-6 and has allowed an opponent OPS of .805, his third-worst at any park where he’s faced at least 100 batters. He’s been outstanding at Citizens Bank Park since joining the Phillies, going 5-0 with a 2.15 ERA in seven starts, though that includes a rough five-inning, four-run outing in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Roy Oswalt

OswaltOswalt also has a significant postseason track record, with a 4-0 record and 3.83 ERA over nine career appearances (eight starts). The last time he pitched in an NLCS he was nearly untouchable, as he won both his starts in 2005 for the Astros during their improbable run to the World Series that year, allowing just two runs over 14 innings while striking out 12 batters.

Key Matchups

Oswalt held righties to a .196 average this season, the second-best in the majors, including a .170 mark in 13 games with the Phillies. However, he’s had problems in his career against two key right-handed bats in the Giants lineup, Freddy Sanchez and Juan Uribe. Sanchez owns a .306 batting average in 36 at-bats, with five of his 11 hits going for extra bases, but he is hitless in his last seven at-bats against Oswalt dating back to September 2008. Uribe has six hits in 16 career at-bats (.375) against him, including 4-for-9 this year, but Oswalt did strike him out each of the three times he faced him as a Phillie on Aug. 17.

Oswalt is 9-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 10 career regular season starts at Citizens Bank Park, which opened in 2004. Among the 33 pitchers who have made more than five starts at the ballpark, his 2.10 ERA and 9-0 record are both tops in that group.