Time: 7:57pm ET
Starting Pitchers: RHP Joe Blanton vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner
Series: 2-1 San Francisco
TV Announcers: Joe Buck and Tim McCarver
Radio: ESPN Radio
Radio Announcers: Dan Shulman and Dave Campbell
Umpires: Derryl Cousins, Tom Hallion, Wally Bell, Ted Barrett,, Dan Iassonga
MLB.com Gameday: Link
Going up against the consensus playoff favorite, the Giants have been able to put themselves in a favorable position after three games. They've made one turn through the fearsome front of the Philadelphia rotation, and they've taken two wins by sinking good starts with better starts of their own. Game 4 brings us something of a wild card - a start by Joe Blanton, who is very much not one of the Phillies' group of aces. Blanton is supposed to be one of the Phillies' few vulnerabilities, so for the Giants to be going up against him already armed with a series lead is a big opportunity. This is where they want to be, and a win over Blanton means they only need to beat one ace the rest of the way in order to make the World Series.
(1) It's important to understand that, while Joe Blanton isn't Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, or Cole Hamels, he's still a good pitcher in his own right. He's just a tier or two below, which is what you expect from a team's fourth starter. His whole thing is throwing strikes and getting ahead. Blanton threw 64 percent first-pitch strikes during the regular season, good for eighth-best in baseball. When he fell behind, he became eminently hittable. When he got ahead, he was in control. The Giants are going to want to stay alert for first-pitch strikes in hittable places. Hitters had good success putting Blanton's first pitch in play during the year, and the Giants should make a good of swinging at the first hittable pitch that they see.
(2) In Game 3, there was some concern about how Matt Cain would be able to deal with the Phillies' left-handed power. Bumgarner gets to neutralize that issue simply by dint of being a southpaw. He'll have the platoon advantage against Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Chase Utley, meaning the two remaining power threats for him to worry about will be Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino. And Victorino isn't exactly a major threat in a ballpark as big as AT&T. Already a strike-thrower, Bumgarner has a good enough matchup where he can try to be a little more aggressive, and we could see him keeping the Phillies on their heels.
(3) In Game 1, Utley and Howard batted together, and Javier Lopez retired both of them in relief. In Games 2 and 3, Charlie Manuel responded by splitting them up. Manuel has batted Utley second and Howard fourth, putting Placido Polanco in between in an effort to make things more difficult for a lefty specialist (read: Lopez). The idea is solid. This way, you make the specialist face a right-handed hitter, against whom specialists tend to struggle. The problem is that Polanco isn't exactly a threat. He's a threat to make contact, and he's a fair bet to get on base, but he's not a power threat at all. About the worst Polanco can do is hit a single or draw a walk. In Game 3, we saw Lopez strike out Utley, get Polanco to ground out, and strike out Howard. I don't know how well this is going to work. I feel like Werth might make for the better sandwich.