NLCS matchups: Giants vs. Phillies

National League Championship Series

Starting pitching: At the top of the rotation, the Giants' Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez are just as strong as the Phillies' Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt/Cole Hamels. But the 3-4 combination of Matt Cain and rookie Madison Bumgarner are better than the Cole Hamels/Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton combination. It's hard to believe, but Giants starters had a lower ERA than Phillies starters during the regular season (3.54 to 3.55) and division series (0.93 to 1.17). Edge: Giants.

Relief pitching: Giants closer Brian Wilson is ultra-solid, except when Bruce Bochy manages himself into a situation needing a six-out save. He shouldn't have to do that, however, as the cast in front of Wilson (especially Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt) is plenty solid. Brad Lidge hasn't blown a save since Aug. 27, converting 11 straight. So, yes, he's due. Edge: Giants.

Batting: The Phillies team built around Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez has played 32 postseason games the last three years, averaging 5.0 runs. It is correctly billed as the most dangerous group of hitters in the pitcher's league, but 2010 has been a year of ups and downs (only Howard drove in more than 85 runs, only catcher Carlos Ruiz hit .300). The Giants probably can't trade punches, but they have better hitters than they showed against the Braves. Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Freddy Sanchez and Juan Uribe should take some of the load off rookie Buster Posey. Edge: Phillies.

Fielding: Neither team is great defensively, but the Giants have allowed fewer unearned runs. Utley seems prone to untimely errors. Juan Uribe has the arm and flair for big defensive plays. Placido Polanco isn't nearly as good at third as he has at second throughout his career. Edge: Giants.

Bench: Aaron Rowand lost his center-field job to Andres Torres but just might win an LCS game with a big hit. Teammates Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz have become valuable role players who could win games with their bats. The Phillies shouldn't have let Matt Stairs leave. Edge: Giants.

Manager: Charlie Manuel and his coaching staff do a good job in preparation and in not overreacting. It has been a long time since Bochy had a team with a shot to go to the World Series and he's a threat to overmanage. Edge: Phillies.

Gut read: The Giants are the only team that already has beaten Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels this year. They're not going to be fazed by their reputations. They could blow the Phillies away if Lincecum beats Halladay in Game 1 and have the depth to win a seven-game series if Halladay wins. Pick: Giants in six.

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