Tim Kawakami: Fear the beard, or fear the Phillies?

PHILADELPHIA — Have the
Giants awakened the dragon?

That was the feeling in the air here Sunday, as the mighty
Philadelphia Phillies bellowed, beat their chests and knocked
around the
Giants in Game 2 of the National
League Championship Series.

Just one game, of course. The Phillies’ high-decibel 6-1 victory
at Citizens Bank Park only tied the series, which now moves to San
Francisco for the next three games.

Just one game, which the Phillies needed much more desperately
than the
Giants did.

But from the moment in the seventh inning when slumping
Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins ripped a laser-shot double off
the right-field wall — it drove in three runs and put away the
Giants — this game felt larger.

The Phillies’ bats, after much frustration in the early part of
the playoffs, are awake and thundering now.

Which probably changes almost everything.

“We played them pretty good,” said Jonathan Sanchez, the
Giants’ starting pitcher who battled
through early trouble to keep the game close. “They’ve got to play
a big game to beat us.”

But that’s exactly what Philadelphia did Sunday. They played
big. They raised themselves up, and, probably as a consequence,
forced the
Giants into some uncharacteristic
and punishing errors.

Yes, the Phillies made the
Giants look a bit small. Now the
Giants go home and hope they either
get larger themselves, or that the Phillies shrink back again.

“You’ve got to play your best ball to beat this team,”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said,
“and we were a little off tonight.”

The Phillies got a big eight-inning performance out of starter
Roy Oswalt, a huge swing of the bat from Rollins, and patient,
powerful at-bats from most of their array of stars.

They went large. That’s what the Phillies can do. And it’s
precisely what the scrappy-go-lucky
Giants cannot duplicate.

“They have a great offense,”
Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff
said. “But they capitalized in big situations. They got the big hit
with the bases loaded.

“We just haven’t put enough pressure offensively on them.”

If the Phillies start hitting, however, there are not many teams
that can go blast for blast with them.

That is, unless Cody Ross, who Sunday hit his fourth home run in
the
Giants’ last three playoff games,
is prepared to hit five or six more the rest of this series.

“It’s all right,” catcher Buster Posey said. “Obviously, you
want to win every game. I don’t think anybody’s satisfied with just
going 1-1. But we’ll keep grinding and grinding.”

Otherwise, Rollins, the Oakland native, Ryan Howard (three hits,
including a rousing double in Game 2), Chase Utley and Jayson Werth
and the others have the proven capabilities to take over this
series.

After this game was over, the Phillies didn’t seem overjoyed —
they just seemed relieved.

The Phillies came into this game hitting only .212 in the
postseason after a lackluster offensive performance in the NLDS
sweep of Cincinnati and a relatively stifled outing against Tim
Lincecum in Game 1.

But the Phillies are the team that has gone to back-to-back
World Series, and they probably were going to come alive at some
point offensively.

“Nobody expected us to be here,” Huff said. “We came here, in a
hostile environment, and they’ve got a great pitching staff and
we’ve got the same. So we’re 1-1 and going home. We can’t ask for
much more than that.”

There is now a solid chance that the Phillies — after their
brief lull and 1-0 deficit against the
Giants — have kicked it back to
their usual high level.

Individually, Rollins was two-for-16 in the playoffs before his
seventh-inning at-bat and was the focus of intense debate and
worry.

Then came the seventh, when Bochy ordered an intentional walk of
Werth to load the bases, to set up reliever Santiago Casilla
against Rollins.

After Rollins got to second base, he shouted and pumped his
fist.

“It was something that was needed at the time,” Rollins said of
his double, which pushed the Phillies lead from 3-1 to 6-1. “I was
glad I was the person up there at the moment and able to come
through.

“But you don’t celebrate until you win four games. And once we
get to that point, then you can look back and say that was a big
hit. But for now, it just gave us a little breathing room.”

They can take up a lot of room, these Phillies. They can put
pressure on every facet of the game, and the
Giants responded with several
physical and mental errors, including two by third baseman Mike
Fontenot.

The Phillies, when they’re THE PHILLIES, can do that to anybody.
It happened to the
Giants in Game 2, and, maybe, the
rest of this series, if the
Giants let it.

Read Tim Kawakami’s Talking Points blog at
blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami . Contact him at
tkawakami@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5442.