Joe Blanton starts the second game of the Phillies' three-game series with the Giants. (Philliedelphia/Kevin Durso)
The weekends haven't been too kind to the Phillies so far this season. Two weekends played, two series losses. But midway through last week, the Phillies appeared to be back on track by closing their series win against the Marlins with back-to-back wins.
Now, the Phillies look to correct their early woes once and for all. A win like Sunday's could be the one that jumpstarts their season the way it was meant to be. That stretch hits the road now, and it goes way out west. The Giants are up first on the trip.
These are not last year's Giants. Back in the heart of the lineup is Buster Posey, the 2010 Rookie of the Year, who adds both offense and defense to the team. His catching prowess is not only excellent, but it makes his pitchers better. Add in bats like Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval and Nate Schierholtz, who have led the offense thus far.
At 4-5, these teams are very similar. The offense in San Fran isn't lighting it up either, and their pitching controls the results. That too has not been excellent thus far. But there's time for correction and two of the favored teams in their divisions are both looking to correct their early struggles. Now they face each other as they try to do that.
Here are the pitching matchups for the series:
In the opener, Roy Halladay (2-0, 0.60 ERA) takes on Tim Lincecum (0-1, 12.91 ERA) – Halladay has been nothing short of brilliant in his first two starts this season. After allowing the first run of the Phillies' 7-1 win over the Marlins on Wednesday, he blanked the Fish through the next six innings. In his career against the Giants (three starts), Halladay is 0-2 with a 7.23 ERA.
Lincecum has struggled mightily in his first couple of starts this season. After losing the opener and allowing five runs, he only lasted 2 1/3 innings in his last start, allowing six runs, but avoiding the loss with a no decision. In his career against the Phillies (nine starts), Lincecum is 4-1 with a 2.61 ERA.
In the middle game, Joe Blanton (1-1, 2.35 ERA) goes against Madison Bumgarner (1-1, 3.97 ERA) – Blanton was dominant in his last start against the Marlins allowing one run in seven innings and getting the win. In his career against the Giants (seven starts), Blanton is 2-3 with a 4.73 ERA.
Bumgarner carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his last start, lasting 7 1/3 innings allowing one run. He took a loss in his first start after lasting just four innings and allowing four runs. In his career against the Phillies (one start), Bumgarner is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA.
In the finale, Cliff Lee (0-1, 3.46 ERA) takes the mound for the Phillies. The Giants have yet to announce a starter. – Lee lost his last start to the Mets after allowing four runs in a shaky six innings. After losing a potential win to the Pirates on a wild pitch, a game where he took a no-decision, Lee is still in search of his first win of the season. In his career against the Giants (four starts), Lee is 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA.
Prediction:April 16 – Phillies 3, Giants 1April 17 – Phillies 3, Giants 4April 18 – Phillies 6, Giants 3
With the struggles of the Giants pitching staff, it's going to take offense to win. Perhaps the Phillies finally really break out of that rut. Tim Lincecum has not been great so far, so he's due for a good start. Roy Halladay has been excellent. Could this be the night he falters? It all remains to be seen. In the end, I can't help but always pick Halladay, especially with the way Lincecum has struggled lately.
Joe Blanton is such a difficult prediction. Last week, I thought he needed quite a few runs, he really only needed two. He got three. This week, I'm not so sure. I have to go the other way on this one, with Bumgarner handling the Phils.
In the finale, I don't care who is pitching for the Giants. There is no way Cliff Lee is letting another team he usually dominates handle him. He's hungry for a first win and he'll get it here.
The Phillies continue their road trip with stops in San Diego and Arizona after their series with the Giants.
Kevin Durso is a contributor for Philliedelphia. You can follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.