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Giants equipped to match up with Phillies' trio

Giants equipped to match up with Phillies' trio

When it comes to starting-pitching matchups in the National League Championship Series, make it the Big Three times two.

If the Phillies have the Beasts of the East, then the Giants have the Big Three West.

There certainly is an abundance of arms available for this best-of-seven series that will get under way on Saturday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. This will be the first postseason meeting between the franchises.

Pitching often is key in the playoffs, and there will be plenty of top-flight performers taking the mound. The anticipation will build for Game 1, which promises to be one of the most enticing showdowns in a while.

Halladay, who is favored to win the NL Cy Young Award, will match up with Lincecum, the Cy Young winner the previous two years.

While both are in the postseason for the first time, they've already made major October impacts.

Halladay no-hit the Reds in Game 1 of their NL Division Series. Until then, Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956 was the lone playoff no-hitter.

Lincecum set a Giants playoff record by striking out 14 during his two-hit shutout against the Braves.

At least pitching-wise, these teams are evenly matched. In terms of head-to-head matchups, neither had an advantage in 2010. They split their six games, with each team taking two of three on its home field.

In order for the Giants to block a third straight World Series appearance for the Phillies, they will rely on what's carried them this far -- rock-solid starters.

"Our organization is built on pitching," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said prior to the start of the playoffs.

It's no coincidence that the remaining teams in the NL have quality starting pitching. During the season, the Giants' starters sported the second-best staff ERA in the NL (3.54). Right behind them? No surprise, the Phillies, a whisker back with a 3.55 mark.

Sensational starters
Stats in the 2010 NLDS for the Giants' four starting pitchers
Lincecum 9 2 0 1 14
Cain 6 2/3 7 0 2 6
Sanchez 7 1/3 2 1 1 11
Bumgarner 6 6 2 1 5
Totals 29 17 3 5 36

Only the Cardinals' rotation (3.50) was better.

The reason the Giants advanced past the Braves in the NLDS stems to standout starting pitching.

Against Atlanta, Lincecum set the tone in Game 1 with his two-hit shutout. Sanchez, in Game 3, struck out 11 in a no-decision.

Overall, Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez combined in the NLDS to allow one earned run (two total) in 23 innings -- an 0.39 ERA. Collectively, they struck out 31 while walking four and allowing 11 hits.

Their challenge will be to slow down a high-powered Phillies' ballclub in a hitter-friendly ballpark. At home, Philadelphia scored 410 runs, which is second to the Rockies (479) among NL squads.

The way they pitched against Atlanta, the Giants didn't need much offense to win the series.

Still, they must find a way to scratch out some runs against a Phillies team that can be explosive.

San Francisco has scored 350 runs on the road this year, which was tied with the Cardinals for fifth in the National League. At Philadelphia during the season, it scored 10 runs in its August three-game series.

A key contributor for San Francisco may be a player who helped the Phillies win the World Series in 2008.

Pat Burrell returns to the place where he was drafted and spent a majority of his career. Now a middle-of-the-lineup threat for the Giants, Burrell has big-game experience, and he is quite familiar with the short porch Citizens Bank Park has in left field.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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