FIVE REASONS THE PHILLIES WILL WIN THE NLCS
1. Starting pitching. Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels threw shutouts against the Reds in the NLDS. You might have heard: Halladay's shutout was a no-hitter. Roy Oswalt was knocked around in Game 2, but expect a bounce-back game from him. Joe Blanton is supposed to start Game 4 and the Phils won his last 13 starts.
2. Close games. The Phillies are 29-17 in one-run games; the Giants are 28-24. With such great pitching, expect tight games. Expect the Phillies to win their share. The Reds' defense was dreadful, handing the Phillies Game 2 and the winning run in Game 3. The Giants won't do that. The games will be close.
3. Hitting the baseball. The Phils batted .212 against the Reds; they hit .260 during the season. The Phils need to hit the ball. They need timely hitting. They need to take advantage when they get runners in scoring position. They are due.
4. Bullpen. The Phils' bullpen pitched four scoreless inning in relief of Oswalt against the Reds. Expect some nail-chewing eighth and ninth innings this series. Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Jose Contreras and the crew have been excellent down the stretch.
5. The best team. Maybe the best team wins this series . . . and the next one, too. Before one pitch is thrown, the Phillies look like the better team. They were 50-25 in the second half and 30-8 since Aug. 26. They have everyone expecting success.
FIVE REASONS THE GIANTS WILL WIN THE NLCS
1. Starting pitching. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez might be the second-best threesome of starting pitchers in baseball. The Phillies' trio is better, but these guys are good enough to win a seven-game series.
2. Madison Bumgarner. The rookie lefty started and won Game 4 against the Braves. He is just the type of pitcher who could give the Phillies batters all kinds of unbalanced trouble. Pitchers like Bumgarner have been giving the Phillies grief for 40 years.
3. Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand. Welcome home, boys. Neither has been lighting up the scoreboard but some familiar surroundings could help. Burrell batted .266 with 18 homers and 51 RBI for the Giants during the season, .252-20-64 overall. Rowand batted .230 with 11 homers and 34 RBI.
4. Got their number. The Phillies dominate most teams. They do not dominate the Giants. San Francisco is 10-9 against the Phillies since 2008, and has won seven of the last nine by the bay. The teams were 3-3 this season, each winning two at home. Clearly, the Giants aren't intimidated.
5. Brian Wilson. He is not the creative genius behind the Beach Boys, not by a longshot. He is a nasty relief pitcher. In three appearances against the Braves, he had two saves and pitched four scoreless innings. He also has the darkened beard and mohawk going, which apparently make him more effective. He is very effective. *