Yes, this weekend's series was only against the Giants. And we only took two of three from a weak offensive team struggling to keep its head above water in the Wild Card race, a team now 9.5 games behind our league-leading record (9.5 GB is almost halfway to Padre-ville).
But Sunday's win, which pinched vaunted Giants starter and last year's Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum early on in the contest, should start to quiet the common media refrain which cites the daunting powers of the top two starters of the Phillies, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, as well as the Cardinals, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.
As of now, it's hard to tell which of those two teams we'll be playing first; Philly has surged to a 87-61 record thanks to an 8-2 count over the last twn games, while St. Louis has gone 4-6 to run its totals to 87-63. The Dodgers, at 90-60, will likely play the third-best record of the three teams, and right now, I'm split at which would be the better first-round opponent for us, in a five-game series where things can turn on a dime (see: James Loney's series-turning grand slam in Game 1 of last year's NLDS, crushing the Cubs with one mighty blow).
But taking Lincecum out in the fifth inning, leaving Timmah with a line that reads 4.0 IP, 5 ER, 3 Ks but 4 BBs, should give us confidence that we can roll with the best of them, and beat them. Yes, Lincecum is overcoming back problems and fatigue (which many SoSG readers have mentioned could exemplify the Giants' penchant for overusing young arms). But he had just gone out and pitched seven innings of one-run ball against Colorado the outing before; and, Lincecum does lead the league in strikeouts.
We've shown, all season long, that we can beat the Giants' #2 starter Matt Cain (who has never won against the Dodgers in his career), and yesterday we've shown we can finish off Lincecum (who had one win against the Dodgers in his three other starts this year). The Giants have two starters in the top four of league ERA leaders; and so do the Cardinals. And even though Lee's ERA would put him just outside the top 10 in the NL, Hamels' ERA is 30th in the league (behind Clayton Kershaw, Randy Wolf, Jon Garland, and even Chad Billingsley).
We can beat Timmah and Matty. Why couldn't we be just as successful against the top two arms from the Phils or Cards? Especially with Rafael Furcal finally heating up, and Ronnie Belliard on a mission--why not?