Phillies_giants_baseball_AP(Source: AP)

Listening to talk radio (and thanks to a 6-day break between games there has been a nauseating degree of over-analysis) and fans around town the last few days, I feel many people have underestimated the Giants. Far too many people are looking ahead to a World Series match-up vs the Yankees or Cliff Lee and the Rangers already. For two years now the Giants have been the one NL team I did not want to see in a playoff series. And apparently I am not the only one. John Miller of Philly Sports Daily has a column up now giving respect to the Giants as well.

Their lineup strikes fear into nobody. People assume H2O will just shut them out or nearly shut them out, and the Phils can scratch out a few runs and, voila, easy series win in 4 or 5 games. I think part of that is because the Phillies have more big name players and the respect that is earned with their postseason success of the last few years.

Statistically, however, the Phils and Giants offenses have been very similar this year though. And in their previous series, both teams ended up needing questionable calls by umpires and defensive mishaps to plate most of their runs. During the regular season both clubs went stretches without scoring much and had to rely on pitching to win. The Phils did out-hit (.260 to .257) and out-homer the Giants (166 to 162) this season, but not by much. Considering the Giants play in a cavernous home ballpark compared to CBP, their HR output is even more impressive and surprising (of course, include caveat right about now about all of the Phillies' injuries).

The Phils did manage to score 75 more runs than the Giants did, which is probably due to a combination of drawing about 80 more walks and other intangibles that help put runners in scoring position. But since the Giants acquired Pat Burrell in mid-season, their overall offense has improved, giving them that power bat they were missing in the middle of the lineup.

Those stats don't mean a whole lot though now. It comes down to individual batter-pitcher match-ups. And objectively, the Giants actually have the edge in those match-ups. We don't have a whole lot to go in only using the six head-to-head games as a sample, but here is what we know:

– Tim Lincecum dominated the Phillies. His only start vs the Phillies was on April 28, a wild comeback win for the Phils. But Lincecum went 8.1 IP and allowed 2 runs on 3 hits, striking out 11 and walking just 1. Ryan Howard hit a solo opposite field HR off of him. He left the game with a 4-1 lead with 1 out and 1 on in the top of the 9th. And their closer Brian Wilson proceeded to blow the lead thanks to a bloop 3-run double down the RF line by Jayson Werth with 2 outs.

– Jonathan Sanchez has been good against the Phillies twice, going 2-0 with 13 IP allowing 2 runs on just 5 hits, but did walk 7 while striking out 13. That means Lincecum and Sanchez have combined for 21 IP and 4 runs allowed this year vs the Phils.

– In his only start vs the Giants, Roy Halladay had one of his 4 or 5 worst lines all year in  a loss – 7 IP, 5 R, 10 H.

– In 2 starts vs the Giants, Cole Hamels had disappointing results, going 0-1 with a no decision and a combined totals of 12 IP, 9 R, 16 H.  

– Roy Oswalt pitched well in his only start as a Phillie vs the Giants, going 7 innings, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 7 and walking none.

– Matt Cain got hit around a little bit in his only start vs the Phillies, surrendering 5 runs (2 earned) and 7 hits in 6 innings.

– Both bullpens have been pretty good against the other this year except for the wild Lincecum-Hamels duel that went extra innings.

– The Phils catch a break in that four guys who hit them pretty good this year probably won't be playing much, if at all, in this series – Mark DeRosa, Edgar Renteria, Jose Guillen, and Pablo Sandoval. DeRosa and Renteria won't even be on NLCS roster. And I believe the same with Guillen who has a neck muscle injury, and Sandoval seems to be a part time player at this point.

– Victorino (8 for 25), Rollins (5 for 14), and Howard (4 for 11) were the only 3 regulars who hit better than .250 vs the Giants this year. Victorino was 3 for 5 vs Sanchez, accounting for 3 of their 5 total hits off him in 2 starts.

– Another factor is, top to bottom, the Giants' pitching staff strikes out a lot of batters, which makes it hard to play small ball against them since you can't advance runners on outs. Combine that with their big stadium, and you can see why they have been one of the best pitching staffs in baseball the last few years.

I really don't want to experience the feeling of impending doom (and ensuing 20-hour city-wide freak-out) if Lincecum out-duels Halladay in Game 1 and then the Giants have Sanchez on the hill in Game 2, poised to put them up 2-0 in the series.

I still believe the Phillies have that certain intangible "it factor" that all winning teams have. And when everything else looks close to even, that will be the difference in the series. So I see the Phils winning it in probably 6 or 7 games, but it won't be easy. I think Halladay and Lincecum will split their 2 meetings, as will Sanchez and Oswalt, and the Phils will win the other games. If Sanchez beats them twice, then you have Hamels vs Cain in Game 7. Get the popcorn ready.

Purist, old-school baseball fans will have a lot to like about this series. Prepare yourself for several close, gut-wrenching, low-scoring games. You gotta love October.