The defending World Champion San Francisco Giants made two moves during the days leading up to the trade deadline. One, swapping top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler for slugging outfielder Carlos Beltran was intriguing, the other sending minor league outfielder Thomas Neal to the Cleveland Indians for Orlando Cabrera, a veteran shortstop who may well be finished as a useful player was not necessarily a terrible trade, but a frustrating one nonetheless.
Like most winning formulas, the Giants approach is not fully replicable. Any strategy that begins with developing five top notch pitchers and an all-star quality catcher all within a few years of each other will be tough to follow, but most good teams are able to develop a core of top talent. That is more or less what defines a good team. The Giants strength lay in recognizing this was their moment and developing a good strategy to augment their core talent.
The most overlooked story of the game is that while neither Lee nor Lincecum had their best stuff, Lincecum pitched a tough 5.2 innings and kept his team in the game, while Lee did not. Lincecum appeared to be unraveling in the first inning, but got it together and settled down enough. It turns out that the long haired pot smoker was able to bear down and tough it out better than the deer hunter from Arkansas.
The Phillies, even after a tough first game loss, are probably still the favorites in the NLCS, but the Giants should not be counted out. The Giants chances rest not on an anything can happen in a short series kind of optimism or solely upon their excellent starting pitching, but primarily on a match-up of skills that may make the Giants uniquely positioned to beat the Phillies.