SAN FRANCISCO — Charlie Manuel has been through enough post-seasons to recognize special pitching matchups this time of year.
Come Tuesday, the Giants and Phillies will see a third such marquee encounter in as many games of their NL championship series: Cole Hamels versus Matt Cain.
The teams travelled on redeye flights after the Phillies’ 6-1 victory Sunday night at Citizens Bank Park, both landing in the Bay Area around 4 a.m. local time Monday.
That makes for a quick turnaround heading into this afternoon’s Game 3 at AT&T Park. The teams stand even at one game apiece in the best-of-seven series.
“When we go 1-1 right now and you’re sitting there and you’ve got Cain and Hamels going tomorrow in a swing game, you won’t see that three days in a row with six pitchers that start the game that good,” said the 66-year-old Manuel, the Phillies’ sixth-year manager. “It’s rare and it’s going to be a heck of a game. The Giants are here because of their pitching and I think we’re here basically because of our pitching. Our offence kind of sputtered this year.”
After getting some brief rest, the Phillies took to the field for their first workout out West, sporting red hooded sweatshirts on the cool fall day.
Hamels, the 2008 World Series MVP, follows Philadelphia’s two star Roys — Halladay and Oswalt — in the rotation. Cain was pushed back to start the third game after Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez pitched the first two.
Cain will be working on 10 days’ rest since he pitched Game 2 of the division series against Atlanta on Oct. 8, the longest layoff of the right-hander’s career.
Hamels, who bounced back from a tough 2009 by going 12-11 with a 3.06 earned-run average this season, pitched a five-hit shutout against Cincinnati on Oct. 10 in his last outing.
“Post-season is where it’s at. It’s the ultimate time to really show what kind of player you are, what kind of pitcher you are,” Hamels said.
“These are the types of games and types of moments when you set foot in spring training it’s the ultimate goal for the whole team to go out and enjoy.”
The Giants managed only four hits in losing to Oswalt on Sunday. Manager Bruce Bochy said he was considering starting former Phillies fan favourite Aaron Rowand in centre field in place of the struggling Andres Torres, who is 1-for-9 in the series and 3-for-25 overall in these playoffs.
Torres went 0-for-4 and struck out all four times on Sunday night.
Bochy planned to talk to both players after their workout.
“Andres, he’s battling it right now,” Bochy said. “It may be time for a change here.”
Bochy was still waiting on results from an MRI exam on Juan Uribe’s bruised left wrist, which made the infielder a late scratch Sunday.
If Uribe can’t play, Pablo Sandoval would move into the lineup at third for his first NLCS start and Edgar Renteria would stay at shortstop.
San Francisco is now home for three games with its raucous, towel-waving sellout crowd ready to cheer the team’s first NLCS since slugger and eventual home run king Barry Bonds carried the Giants to a runner-up World Series finish in 2002.
“You just feel comfortable pitching at home,” Cain said. “Just try to relax and try to almost enjoy it and soak it all in, to try to take the nerves off a little bit.”
Manuel sure hopes being home in Northern California will make banged-up Jimmy Rollins more at ease.
Rollins, the Phillies’ three-time Gold Glove shortstop from across the bay in Alameda, is 3-for-18 during this run — going 1-of-11 against the Reds in the division series and 2-for-7 with three strikeouts so far against the Giants.
“We need for him to play good,” Manuel said. “I’m sure he’s going to be wanting to play good.”
Runs and hits again could be tough to come by.
Hamels has benefited this season from being around Halladay and Oswalt. Not only has his improved work ethic impressed Manuel, but Hamels also has gained strength on his six-foot-three frame, brought a cut fastball to his repertoire and added several miles per hour to his regular fastball velocity.
“He’s wanted to put to rest that he was anything less than a superstar,” Phillies closer Brad Lidge said. “And he is a superstar. He worked his butt off this winter to come out this year to prove it, and that’s what he’s done. If he had anything left that wasn’t mature, it’s gone now. He’s doesn’t act anything close to 26.”
Hamels will have to try to shut down Cody Ross, who has three home runs in the series and has been a nemesis to the Phillies dating to his days with Florida.
“Cody’s about like anybody else,” Manuel joked. “They walk in that ballpark and he wants to come up and talk to me or talk to guys around the cage. Actually he’s looking at the fences and how far, how close they look. He’s thinking to himself, ’Man, I hope I’m in the lineup today.’ … He enjoys to play against us and that helps him to relax. And he gets up for us.”