PHILADELPHIA -- Each game, until the Giants clinch a postseason berth or are mathematically eliminated from contention, must be viewed through the prism of the pennant race. This one, however, could be separated and held up to the light for admiration, like a crystal or a favorite piece of jewelry. This one featured Tim Lincecum against Pedro Martinez, baseball's current hot young pitcher against his predecessor of a decade. The Philadelphia Phillies' 2-1 victory over the Giants was a contest that the 45,156 patrons at Citizens Bank Park and everyone watching on television should commit to memory, because Martinez reminded witnesses why he belongs in the Hall of Fame and Lincecum showed his usual promise of someday meriting that status.
With their ace on the mound, the Giants missed a chance to pull even atop the National League Wild Card standings with Colorado, which lost, 8-3, to the New York Mets. San Francisco limited the hard-hitting Phillies to four runs in three games and won only once -- mainly because they scored just five runs. At least publicly, the Giants refused to express frustration. "I don't think we're in a bad spot," Lincecum said. "We have to bounce back from this. I say that all the time after losses. That's the mentality we've got to have." "We still have a month full of games," said right fielder Randy Winn, who was stranded on third base in the ninth inning. "It would have been nice to win this series and pull back even with the Rockies but it didn't happen." What happened was a classic showdown that met expectations. Martinez, the 37-year-old who received Cy Young Awards in 1997, 1999 and 2000, subdued the Giants with his guile. Lincecum, the NL's reigning Cy Young Award winner, performed as dynamically as a 25-year-old should. Martinez (3-0) struck out nine in seven innings, both season highs for the right-hander who spent most of this year recovering from a shoulder injury and didn't pitch a regular-season game until Aug. 12. After yielding a home run to Eugenio Velez on the game's first pitch, he went about the business of frustrating the Giants. Pablo Sandoval and Juan Uribe doubled with one out in the first and seventh innings, respectively, and Velez hit a leadoff double in the sixth. The only runner to advance was Velez, and that was on Sandoval's grounder for the inning's second out. Lincecum (13-5) also lasted seven innings and struck out 11, his highest single-game total since he accumulated a career-high 15 on July 27. He also hiked his Major League-leading figure to 233. Lincecum lapsed with one out in the second inning, as Jayson Werth slammed a high slider into the second deck for his 30th home run of the season. The drive carried an estimated 435 feet. Then, with two outs and nobody on in the sixth, Lincecum hit Chase Utley with a wayward fastball pitch to prolong the inning for Ryan Howard, who lashed an RBI double to right-center field. The Giants would rally in the ninth, putting runners on the corners against Phillies closer Brad Lidge before pinch-hitter Fred Lewis tapped a game-ending fielder's-choice grounder. But once Martinez and Lincecum departed, the main event was essentially over. The 217-game winner and the two-time All-Star who still looks like he just received his driver's license verbally embraced each other afterward. "He's amazing," Martinez said of Lincecum. "He reminds me a lot of me, only twice as better at the same time in the big leagues. ... This is his second or third year, right? Yeah, he already has a Cy Young." An incredulous listener asked Martinez if he really meant Lincecum was twice as good as him at an identical stage. "Yeah, I didn't get a Cy Young until probably my seventh year," Martinez said. Actually, it was Martinez's fifth full season. Of course, Lincecum won his in just his first full season -- and he did so by emulating Martinez, with whom he shares a listed height of 5-foot-11. "I used him as an example of guys who had great careers and put up pretty phenomenal numbers considering their lack of size," Lincecum said. "Him, [David] Eckstein and all those smaller guys are guys I use as examples of myself or myself as examples of them." Lincecum acknowledged that opposing Martinez was thus a special experience. "Definitely," Lincecum said. "Just to get to see what kind of stuff he has, and it's just ridiculous how nasty it still is today. You can see that he knows what he's doing and he's not just winging it up there hoping that he's getting outs. He's pitching with a purpose. He knows how to get guys out and that was apparent in the first three innings." Martinez collected seven of his strikeouts in that span, including the side in the third inning. He wasn't the Martinez of yesteryear, but he was more resourceful. "It's not close, velocity-wise," Winn said. "He threw 96, 97 with an 86 mile-an-hour changeup with the same arm motion, and the changeup moved a lot and he had a really good breaking ball that he could flip up there any time he wanted. He was awesome. "He doesn't throw as hard anymore, but he still has great control, a great changeup and still able to flip the breaking ball up there any time. He's added a little cutter now. He's more of a pitcher because he can't just rear back and throw it by you like he used to."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.