PHILADELPHIA -- Those who rely on win-loss records will point to the Major League standings and insist that the Philadelphia Phillies remain baseball's best team.But when recent history, head-to-head matchups and sheer competitiveness are considered, it's easy to conclude that the Giants are currently superior to the perennially elite Phillies. San Francisco received six shutout innings from Tim Lincecum, an inspiring defensive play from Carlos Beltran in his Giants debut and sufficient offense in Thursday night's 4-1 triumph. The reigning World Series champions not only captured the three-game series, two games to one, but also achieved some worthy milestones. By winning the series' final two games, San Francisco dealt the Phillies back-to-back defeats for the first time since June 3-4. Moreover, Philadelphia hadn't lost consecutive home games since April 18-19 against Milwaukee. The Giants also denied Philadelphia its 10th series triumph in a row. This trio of games was billed as a rematch of the National League Championship Series, which the Giants also won, 4-2. Though the Giants sustained their superiority, manager Bruce Bochy refused to characterize this as a "statement" series.
"We're just trying to play our best ball and win games," Bochy said.Lincecum, who ignored what he called "residual fatigue" from a bout with food poisoning that delayed his start two days, spoke in more descriptive terms about the Giants' ability to subdue the Phillies. "It says a lot about us," Lincecum said. "It's not necessarily a fluke what we did last year and what we got going on this year. Obviously [the Phillies] are looked at as a team that's supposed to be there again, especially with the depth of their pitching and what the bats in their order are capable of doing."
Referring to the Giants' resilience after losing Tuesday night's series opener, Lincecum added, "That just shows that we're playing good baseball and we bounce back from whatever kind of loss we go through."Stubbornly, Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel conceded nothing to the Giants. "I think we can get 'em, if you want to know the truth. I know we can get 'em," Manuel said. "It's just a matter of us putting it together and for us to play the right way. And that's pitch, hit and play good defense. Yeah, I think we can get 'em. They've been playing us tough. They've got a good team. They've got good pitching. So do we. It's just a matter of us outplaying them. Basically, the last two nights they took it to us." The Giants accomplished that with Matt Cain and Lincecum combining to allow zero earned runs and seven hits in 13 innings. But Manuel didn't sound overly impressed with their mastery, particularly Lincecum's. "Tonight I saw 90 [mph] fastball, 92 at the best," Manuel said. "I saw a good changeup. I saw a breaking ball. I saw a cutter. Good pitching, but at the same time we can beat that." Manuel bristled at the suggestion that the Giants had established a mental edge against the Phillies.
"They're not in our heads," he said. "I don't think so. Really, I don't think so at all. It's just the fact we've got to get after them."Led by Lincecum, the Giants were clearly the aggressors this time. The right-hander was especially tough on Chase Utley, Philadelphia's No. 3 hitter. Utley popped up with one out and Jimmy Rollins on third base in the first inning, then struck out with two runners on and two outs in the third and fifth innings. The count was full on both occasions. Displaying his versatility, Lincecum blew a fastball past Utley in the third inning before fooling him in the fifth with a changeup in the dirt. That set the pace for Giants pitchers -- not just Lincecum, but also four relievers -- to limit Philadelphia to one hit in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position. "I'm just lucky he swung at it," Lincecum said of the fifth-inning matchup with Utley. "It was obviously a ball." Earlier in that inning, Beltran, the right fielder acquired primarily to enliven San Francisco's lineup, made a sliding catch of Rollins' shallow fly ball to prevent a hit. Beltran charged the ball so intently that he created a huge divot in the outfield grass when he slid. He also caused widespread concern among the Giants, given his history of leg injuries. Asked if he held his breath until Beltran rose, Bochy said, "I'm not going to lie. I did." That wasn't Beltran's lone contribution, though he went 0-for-4. During batting practice, he urged Pablo Sandoval to focus more on hitting up the middle and to the opposite field. Presto: Batting left-handed, Sandoval christened the second inning with an opposite-field drive to left field off Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick.
"Pablo's a guy who has a lot of power," Beltran said, explaining that Sandoval can succeed without trying to pull everything.After Aubrey Huff's two-out double and Nate Schierholtz's RBI single widened the Giants' lead in the fourth, San Francisco capitalized on Phillies mistakes to add a pair of runs in the seventh. Schierholtz drew a leadoff walk and, despite being fooled into sliding at second base, advanced to third on Chris Stewart's hit-and-run single. Pinch-hitting for Lincecum, Aaron Rowand slapped a grounder that third baseman Michael Martinez dropped before overthrowing first base. Schierholtz scored easily before Stewart barely beat Ryan Howard's throw home. Stewart rose from his slide and clapped his hands with such joyful ferocity that the report could be heard from the press box, just below Citizens Bank Park's upper deck. "I was fired up," Stewart said. On this evening, every Giant had reason to be.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.