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Another stellar matchup on tap

SAN FRANCISCO — Charlie Manuel has been through enough postseasons to recognize special pitching matchups this time of year.

Come today, the Giants and Phillies will see a third such marquee encounter in as many games of their NL Championship Series: Cole Hamels vs. Matt Cain.

The teams traveled 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 are tied 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 (today) in a swing game, you won't see that three days in a row with six pitchers that start the game that good," said Manuel, 66, 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 offense 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 ERA this season, pitched a five-hit shutout against the Reds on Oct. 10 in his last outing.

"Postseason 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. They know they will have to produce more to upset the two-time reigning NL champions.

Today "is absolutely important," rightfielder Cody Ross said. "We're coming home. We like playing at home, Matt on the mound. We have all the confidence in the world in him."

Manager Bruce Bochy said he was considering starting former Phillies fan favorite Aaron Rowand in centerfield 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 Sunday night.

Another stellar matchup on tap 10/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 18, 2010 10:53pm]
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