Giants still in command of hard-fought NLCS

Giants still in command of hard-fought NLCS

SAN FRANCISCO -- AT&T Park could have been host to quite the party Thursday night.

A third straight win in front of electric crowds and the Giants would have been going to the World Series.

Instead, the Giants ran into one of the game's best pitchers, made errors of the physical and mental variety and were unable to clinch the National League pennant in front of their hometown faithful. Now, following their 4-2 loss to the Phillies in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, the Giants need to fly back across the country as they continue their quest for their first Fall Classic since 2002.

As hard as it might be to remember after watching the Giants lose a game they clearly had a chance to win, it's important to know they still are in the driver's seat with a 3-2 series lead.

"We took one there, took two out of three here and tonight was a real tough game," Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "If you would've told us before the series that we were going to be in this position, I think we'd all take it. But we've got to go out there and play like we've been playing all year."

Here's what the Giants have done this series:

• They have continued to keep the Phillies' bats in check, holding them to an average of 3.8 runs per game.

• They have gotten contributions from seemingly everybody on their roster.

• And last, but certainly not least, they've beaten all three of the Phillies' "Big Three" starting pitchers in Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

The Giants' next plan of attack, then, is no doubt surprisingly simple.

"We're going to go there and keep our heads up, have good at-bats and play well on defense," third baseman Pablo Sandoval said. "It's a tough game; one day you win, one day you lose. But you have to keep your head up and keep fighting."

It shouldn't come as a surprise the Giants were unable to finish the series Thursday night. After all, it took them three games to get one victory against the Padres during the final weekend of the regular season. And perhaps even the most hardcore of Giants fans may expect a Game 7.

Plain and simple, that's the way it's been this season.

"With this club, as you know, we don't do anything easy," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "What they've been through, they'll put this behind us. And, believe me, under no illusion did we think this was going to be easy playing a great club."

And although 43,713 fans left AT&T Park disappointed on Thursday, the Giants still are right where they want to be: leading the series.

"It's 3-2, I think we're still in the driver's seat," Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. "That was a big game tonight and both teams were battling. Line-drive outs here, line-drive outs there, for both sides, just seemed like a weird bounce went their way.

"I think you're going to see stuff like that in the next couple games, where every pitch is a big pitch, and you've got two lineups that are going to go at it. And I think with what we've got going on the mound the next few days, I still feel pretty comfortable with where we're at."

Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.