PHILADELPHIA -- The only way Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum were going to live up to the enormous hype and buildup that preceded their National League Championship Series Game 1 matchup Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park was if they each took perfect games into the ninth, with one homering off the other in the final inning to provide the game's only run.
Come to think of it, that would have been ... just ... awesome.
Alas, the hunger for history shared by the sold-out crowd in attendance and the millions watching at home, while not unjustifiable, was not to be satisfied as the Giants' 4-3 victory played out. Halladay and Lincecum, after all, are mere mortals, even if their NL Division Series performances against the Reds and Braves, respectively, didn't suggest as much.
Halladay's no-hit brilliance stretched out over another seven at-bats against San Francisco, bringing him just two shy of Don Larsen's record of 36. But the streak abruptly ended with the first of two Cody Ross solo shots, and a two-run sixth further proved the Giants had the antidote for the Doc.
Freak fabulous once again
Tim Lincecum's stats from his Game 1 NLDS shutout vs. the Braves on Oct. 7 and Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday
As for Lincecum, a tight strike zone enforced by home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins -- a zone that drew the ire of both pitchers -- established early that he'd have a difficult time repeating his 14-strikeout shutout of the Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS. And he, too, fell victim to the long ball in a park that is a haven for home run hitters.
So, no, this pitching pairing was not quite the heavyweight bout (Thrilla in Phila'?) that many had anticipated.
"I thought it might be 1-0 or 2-1," Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins said. "But it was still a one-run game."
Yes, it was. And because of that fact, this was a duel of another sort, one in which the 2009 NL Cy Young Award winner and the anticipated 2010 winner had to maneuver through traffic and limit the damage against them.
Both aces were done after seven. Lincecum's seven innings were just a bit better than Halladay's.
Halladay allowed four runs on eight hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. He threw 105 pitches, 73 for strikes.
"You make a couple mistakes," he said, "and they end up costing you."
Whereas Halladay had thrown first-pitch strikes to 25 of the 28 batters he faced in the no-hitter against the Reds, this time he fell behind 1-0 seven times while facing 29 batters.
Falling behind in the count burned Halladay twice against Ross. His one-out solo shots in the third and fifth innings both came on 2-0 pitches. Both were also fastballs low in the zone, but they caught too much of the plate. To his credit, Ross reached down and grabbed them, punching them out to left.
But where Halladay truly got hurt was in the sixth. It was a 2-1 game going into the inning, and Halladay got the first two outs quickly. But a Buster Posey single kept the Giants alive. Halladay thought he had Pat Burrell retired on an 0-2 cutter on the low inside corner and even started to walk off the mound. Cousins, however, ruled the pitch a ball, and Burrell wound up doubling home Posey on the next pitch to make it 3-1. Juan Uribe's ensuing RBI single to center only added to Halladay's frustration with Cousins and himself. Just like that, it was 4-1.
"It's part of the game," Halladay said. "You don't get a call, and you have to make a pitch on the next one."
Lincecum would offer Halladay some reprieve in the bottom of the sixth. Through five innings, the only damage off him had come on Carlos Ruiz's 2-0 leadoff shot in the third, on a pitch Lincecum hung high in the zone. The long ball would haunt him again in the sixth, when Chase Utley reached on an infield single and, one out later, Jayson Werth connected on a 2-2 fastball for a two-run shot to right.
Roy Halladay's stats from his Game 1 NLDS no-hitter vs. the Reds on Oct. 6 and Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday
But this was where the duel was won. With the lead cut down to 4-3 and the game in jeopardy, Lincecum didn't succumb to the pressure. Instead, he seemed to gain some steam just before departing. He struck out Rollins and Ruiz to get out of the sixth without further trouble, and he retired the side in order in the seventh, getting good action with all four pitches.
"I thought it was a great effort by him," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Werth got them back in the game. He got a mistake and took advantage of it. But Timmy settled down and pitched well after that."
In all, Lincecum was charged with three runs on six hits with three walks and eight strikeouts in seven innings. He threw 113 pitches, 71 for strikes.
"I was erratic at times," he said. "I don't think I ran into any easy innings there. It was a lot of work."
More work than was anticipated on a night in which many were hoping for history. Alas, this showdown did not quite live up to the hype. But it was, nonetheless, an entertaining duel. And this duel went Lincecum's way.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, CastroTurf. Follow @castrovince on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.