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Fundamentals magnified for Giants, Phillies

Fundamentals magnified for Giants, Phillies

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SAN FRANCISCO -- When you have two teams pitching marvelously, and two offenses scratching and clawing for every run, something has to give. Something has to make the difference when the arms and the bats seem to cancel each other out.

That's when it comes down to the little things, and that's where the crux of this National League Championship Series appears to have rested.

If Thursday's Game 5 victory for the Phillies over the Giants tells us anything, it's that over the course of a seven-game series under those circumstances where great pitching and scuffling hitting butt heads, the little things can make a big difference.

The little things teams do and -- as was evidenced with Thursday's game -- the little things they don't, will end up being the X factor.

In Game 5, it was the Phillies doing enough of them right, and the Giants doing enough of them wrong that told the tale.

If it comes down to little things, it would seem to be an advantage to the Giants, who have used intangibles and a generally strong defense behind their Majors-best pitching staff to get here. In fact, the Giants had the highest fielding percentage (.988) they've recorded since moving to San Francisco in 1958, good for fourth in the NL. The Phillies don't hurt themselves defensively, either, but they had an error of their own -- one that didn't haunt them, though.

Meanwhile, the Giants committed two fielding errors -- one on each corner of the infield -- and did not play as crisply as the Phillies.

"It's going to happen," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "These guys have been doing a great job on defense, and we're playing a really good club that you can't give extra outs to. The other game we lost, we played a little sloppy there, too, and when you're going against a good team like this, you have to play your best ball."

The Giants couldn't have done the little things much better to take the lead in Thursday's game, manufacturing a run when leadoff man Andres Torres drew a full-count walk off Roy Halladay, moved to third on a hit-and-run and scored on a fielder's choice. It's a run of which Rickey Henderson would be proud.

And really the whole team showed a much better approach at the plate than it has built its free-swinging reputation upon, seeing pitches and knocking Halladay out of the game after six innings.

But one mistake on the bases -- resulting in the third out at third base, a taboo boo-boo -- and a miscue at third, along with an outright throwing error by Pablo Sandoval, and an error that bounced off Aubrey Huff's glove at first base so hard it went into center field.

And Huff knows that one error -- two runs actually came around on the play in the fateful three-run third for the Phillies -- can be huge in a postseason game like this, especially a series like this.

"This is a series where you're going to make all the plays, because it's probably going to be low-scoring," Huff said.

On the basepaths, Giants postseason hero Cody Ross made an aggressive mistake by trying to take third on a fly ball to right for the second out, but Jayson Werth nailed him with a perfect throw for the third out of the Giants' half of the fourth. Ross had delivered his eighth RBI of the postseason with a double, but he knew afterward he didn't do the little thing he needed to do to keep the Giants' rally going after that in the fourth -- which in this case was to stay put.

"I had a split-second decision to make," Ross said. "I made the wrong decision."

While Ross certainly has some currency to spend on making the occasional gaffe this postseason, the Giants know as well as the Phillies do that they can't go around making mistakes or not getting the little things done.

The little things can be really big this time of year, and a series like this puts a magnifying glass on them.

John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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