San Francisco, which fell, 4-2, in Game 5, will take on the Phillies on Saturday with a simple goal in mind: Win and advance to the World Series for the first time since 2002. And if that's not clear enough of a motivating factor, the Giants can take solace in having the league's hottest hitter -- Cody Ross -- making an effort to carry their lineup. (Opposing view: Why the Phillies will win Game 6)
Ross, an unexpected dynamo, has all three of his team's home runs in this series, and he's also accounted for five of San Francisco's 16 RBIs and four of the team's 16 runs. Ross (.375) is the only Giants regular batting better than .300 in this series, and he accounted for the team's only run with a homer in a 6-1 loss to Roy Oswalt in Game 2 of the NLCS.
The Giants haven't gone deep since that home run, but they've been opportunistic in finding a way to score 11 times in their last three games. San Francisco has specialized in small ball and has scored more than one run in an inning just three times in this series. Now, the Giants will need that same resiliency and resourcefulness against Oswalt in Game 6.
And in that respect, they'll have some recent success to hang their hopes on. San Francisco faced Oswalt in a surprise relief appearance in Game 4, and it wound up carving out a win with a one-out sacrifice fly by Juan Uribe. Veteran Aubrey Huff, who had singled and moved to third on another single, steamed home with the decisive run in that game.
The Giants feature a hungry lineup, full of veterans who got their start in other organizations. But their most important player is an example of homegrown scouting and development. Rookie catcher Buster Posey, the fifth-overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, had four hits in the Giants' Game 4 win and then added an RBI in Game 5.
Posey, a standout candidate for Rookie of the Year, may not yet be able to appreciate the gravity of the moment. Historically speaking, San Francisco has a 2-13 record in Games 6 and 7 of seven-game series and hasn't won in those circumstances since 1962. The Giants, in fact, have never won the World Series since moving to San Francisco in 1958.
But those numbers don't affect the current edition of the team, which will take the field on Saturday behind starter Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez pitched relatively well and couldn't beat Oswalt in Game 2, but now he'll get another chance. The 27-year-old southpaw had a 2.86 ERA in 16 road starts this season -- and he'll take the ball on Saturday in the biggest game of his life.
San Francisco has held the Phillies to a .209 average so far this series, and it's won three of the five games -- despite being outscored, 18-16. All of that goes out the window once the teams take the field. But at this point, it's hard to pick against the team that holds a lead. The Giants have carved out a hard-fought advantage, and now they just have to finish the job.