MLB

Don't even try to predict NLCS outcome

Phillies Roy Halladay and Jayson Werth with Ken Rosenthal after Game 5.
Phillies Roy Halladay and Jayson Werth with Ken Rosenthal after Game 5.
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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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SAN FRANCISCO

If you think you know what will happen next, you have no clue.

The beauty of this series, the beauty of this sport, is that it routinely defies logic. Game 5 of the NLCS was no different. I’m guessing that Game 6 — and possibly Game 7 — will be no different either.

I picked the Phillies in five. A National League general manager said I was too generous, predicting a Phillies sweep. Well, here we are, heading back to Philadelphia, with the Giants leading three games to two. And yet, it’s difficult to say which team exactly is in command.

Is it the Phillies, who are batting .209 in the series? Or is it the Giants, who are batting .220?

One scout told me, “it’s all about the starters” — always a safe remark at this time of year. Yet, it was not all about the starters Thursday night in the Roy Halladay-Tim Lincecum rematch. And it might not be all about the starters when Phillies right-hander Roy Oswalt meets Giants lefty Jonathan Sanchez in Game 6, and Phillies lefty Cole Hamels faces Giants righty Matt Cain in Game 7, if necessary.

Crazy stuff happens in baseball, and the zaniness often reaches new levels in the postseason. The Phillies’ three-run third inning Thursday night certainly could not be classified as normal. The big blows were — ahem — a foul bunt by Halladay that was ruled fair and an error by Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff that plated two runs.

Over the next 24 hours, much will be made of the series returning to Philadelphia, and the Phillies supposedly gaining an advantage from being back home. Phils closer Brad Lidge, in fact, offered such a viewpoint almost immediately after Thursday night’s game.

“The atmosphere and environment there makes it real comfortable for us,” Lidge said. “It’s not easy for the other guy to pitch there, the guy who doesn’t understand it. In Philly at times, it feels like those seats are 20 feet away from you.”

True enough, but Sanchez pitched a brilliant game in Philadelphia on Aug. 20, allowing one run in eight innings. Cain is 0-2 with a 5.29 ERA in three lifetime starts at the Bank, but then, he was winless in his career against the Phillies until stifling them in Game 3.

What does it all mean, really? Oswalt has never lost at the Bank and was terrific in Game 2. Hamels was the Phillies’ best starter down the stretch this season. But remember, the Phils lost Game 1 of this series at home — and home teams are only 10-15 this postseason.

We all love to try to figure this stuff out. It’s part of what makes the game fun. But raise your hand if you predicted that Phillies cleanup man Ryan Howard would not produce an RBI in the first five games or that the Giants’ Cody Ross would be the offensive star of this series.

Take it away, skippers.

“I figure we definitely kind of changed things around a bit,” the Phillies’ Charlie Manuel crowed after Thursday night’s game.

“With this club, as you know, we don’t do anything easy,” the Giants’ Bruce Bochy replied. “With what they’ve been through, they’ll put this behind us. And believe me, playing a great club, we were under no illusion that this was going to be easy.”

So here we go, back to Philly. All you Phillies fans who believe the Giants will roll over, you’re engaging in wishful thinking. All you Giants fans who keep telling me I made a dumb pick, keep the cards, letters and ever-friendly tweets coming.

Fans, writers, players, managers, we’re all in the same spot.

If you think you know what will happen next, you have no clue.

Tagged: Phillies, Giants, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Tim Lincecum

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