Douglas Benton. 19th April, 2012 - 5:31 pm
An early marquee series in the National League was played in San Francisco this week. While the pitching duel between Matt Cain and Cliff Lee on Wednesday night stole the show, the Phillies and Giants could also be a playoff preview.
San Francisco Giants:
In a series billed for starting pitching, the Giants received a pair of good pitching performances from arms they recently signed to long-term contracts. Matt Cain was dealt a tough no-decision in throwing nine shutout innings on Wednesday. He gave up two hits and a walk with two strikeouts while being in complete control against Philadelphia. On Tuesday in Game 2, Madison Bumgarner had first pitch strikes to 24 of 27 batters in going six innings for the win. The ceiling is very high for the 22-year-old Bumgarner.
On the opposite end are the continued struggles of Tim Lincecum. Once again, he showed a lowered velocity in giving up five runs in six innings. He struck out eight with good overall stuff, but needs to rediscover his good fastball to set up his secondary stuff. On the year, he has a 10.54 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP.
One of the biggest questions coming into the season was the healthy return of catcher Buster Posey. The talented young catcher went 7-for-12 against the Phillies and is hitting .361 on the year. Offense is still the weakness out of the three phases for the Giants and they need Posey producing with power in the middle of the order to key the rest of the line-up for production.
Cliff Lee went 10 shutout innings on Wednesday while surrendering seven hits and striking out seven, but was left with a no-decision. Lee has pitched at least six innings in all three starts and compiled a 1.96 ERA with a WHIP under one despite not registering a win. His teammate, Roy Halladay, got the series off to a good start in going eight innings for the win on Monday. He gave up seven hits, two runs, three walks and struck out six.
Hunter Pence is off to a good start and is still a bit undervalued for his career OBP that has been nearing .400 while with the Phillies. He has hit safely in nine of 12 games and went 4-for-11 against stellar pitching for San Francisco. He can still hit for more power with just four extra base hits on the year, but is one of the top hitters for Philadelphia right now.
While Pence is off to a good start, the Phillies have seen their once potent line-up hampered due to defections, injuries and age. On the shelf is Chase Utley (knee) and Ryan Howard (Achilles) with neither having a firm return date. The pitching will keep Philadelphia as one of the top teams in the National League, but without an overpowering offense, it won't be the favorite it has been the last few years.
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