San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Team Grades for NLCS Game 3
Matt Carpenter was the hero for the Cardinals, as he delivered a two-run home run after replacing Carlos Beltran, who had to leave with a strained knee early in the game.
Both starting pitchers performed well, but in the end it was the Giants' inability to drive in baserunners and the Cardinals' dominant bullpen that made the difference.
Here are my grades for Game 3 of the 2012 NLCS.
Starter Kyle Lohse tight-roped through 5.2 innings of work, allowing seven hits and five walks, but just one run before back-to-back two-out singles in the sixth chased him.
Flame-throwing Trevor Rosenthal came on to get the final out of the inning, inducing a groundout from Angel Pagan to bring the Giants' stranded runners total to 10 at that point in the contest.
Edward Mujica came in for his usual seventh-inning role, but was hit hard and allowed a single off the wall to Pablo Sandoval and a scalded single through the left side to Buster Posey, before giving way to Mitchell Boggs with just one out in the inning.
Boggs came through huge, striking out both Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt to get the Cardinals out of the jam. With Boggs unable to come back out after the delay, the team asked closer Jason Motte to record his first two-inning save of the season.
Motte got through a 1-2-3 eighth inning with just nine pitches, and went on to retire all six batters he faced on 19 pitches for his first two-inning save of the season.
Aside from the Matt Carpenter home run in the third, Matt Cain was nearly untouchable through his first six innings of work, allowing just four hits and settling in nicely over the middle innings.
He ran into trouble in the seventh inning, though, as he loaded the bases with just one out. An RBI groundout from Shane Robinson marked the end of his night, as he gave way to Javier Lopez just before a rain delay went into effect.
Lopez was able to escape further damage after the delay, striking out John Jay to end the threat and keeping the score where it was heading into the eighth inning.
Left-hander Jose Mijares took the ball to open the eighth, striking out Carpenter, then getting Matt Holliday to ground out before a walk to Adron Chambers brought the hook in favor of George Kontos.
The right-hander got Yadier Molina to ground out to end the inning and keep the score 3-1 heading into the Giant's' final at-bats.
Another unexpected hero stepped forward for the Cardinals, as Matt Carpenter delivered the big blow with a two-run shot in the bottom of the third inning.
Carpenter was only in the lineup because Carlos Beltran went down with a strained knee trying to leg out a a ground ball during his first-inning at bat. He is currently day-to-day.
From there, the Cardinals were more or less shut down by Cain until the seventh, when they loaded the bases with one out and managed to squeak across a run on an RBI groundout from double-switch entry Shane Robinson. However, that was all they got, as they entered the late innings with a 3-1 cushion that would wind up being the final score.
David Freese had a strong game, going 2-for-3 with a double and scoring on the Robinson groundout. For the most part, though, the Cardinals offense was held in check—they just managed to capitalize on the few opportunities they had.
Stranding 11 runners and scoring just one run on nine hits and five walks pretty much tells the story for the Giants.
Marco Scutaro went 2-for-5 with a double in his return to the lineup, and Pablo Sandoval went 2-for-5 and drove in the team's only run with an RBI groundout in the third inning. Brandon Crawford added a 2-for-3 performance out of the eight hole.
The team has to get something from guys like Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt if they want to bounce back in this series.
Key Factor: Giants' Inability to Capitalize on Baserunners
The Giants had ample opportunity in this game, as the team had at least one baserunner in each of the first seven innings.
In total, the Giants stranded 11 runners after rapping out nine hits and five walks, but managed just the one run in the third.
Hunter Pence remains without an RBI this postseason, and really no one aside from Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval has hit with any sort of consistency this postseason.
Key Factor: Cardinals Bullpen Continues to Shorten Games
While you have to tip your cap to the way Kyle Lohse battled through his 5.2 innings of work, the Cardinals 'pen did a fantastic job closing things out from there (as they have all postseason).
Trevor Rosenthal came on when Lohse gave up back-to-back hits with two outs in the sixth and got out of the inning without further damage.
Edward Mujica gave up a pair of hits, but Mitchell Boggs came on and recorded back-to-back strikeouts of Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt to escape the threat.
Then, following the lengthy delay, Jason Motte came on closed out the hapless San Francisco offense.
Final Team Grades
You'd like to see the offense tally a few more hits, as Matt Cain was dominant for the middle innings, and the Carlos Beltran injury could be an issue moving forward.
However, the Cardinals proved they could grind out a win and Matt Carpenter came through with the type of huge, unexpected contribution that a team can rally behind and build plenty of momentum from.
The bullpen continues to be fantastic. With Motte needing just 19 pitches in his two innings of work, they should have everyone available for Game 4.
Cain certainly turned in a win-worthy performance, and Marco Scutaro looked good in his return to the lineup, but that was the extent of San Francisco's bright spots.
The Giants and their offense need to do a complete 180 if they want to get back in this series.