St. Louis Cardinals Hold off SF Giants 3-1 Behind Unsung Hero Matt Carpenter

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IOctober 17, 2012

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 17:  Mitchell Boggs #41 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after striking out Brandon Belt #9 of the San Francisco Giants in the seventh inning in Game Three of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 17, 2012 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Shrugging off adversity once again, and a tremendously long rain delay, the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the NLCS with a 3-1 win over the San Francisco Giants in St. Louis Wednesday night. 

This win was a great example of what has made this Cardinals team so special, as they were dealt a huge blow early.  

In the first inning, slugger Carlos Beltran slightly stretched his stride in a failed effort to beat out a grounder, and in the second inning he was forced to leave the game. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweeted out the news. 

beltran left game with left knee strain. said day to day

— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) October 17, 2012


Beltran is the last player the Cards wanted to lose. The guy has been flat-out amazing. He is hitting .414 with three home runs this postseason, and as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out, he is the all-time leader in playoff slugging percentage. 

While the Cardinals will undoubtedly be hoping for the best for Beltran's knee, if they were going to lose him for a game, this was the one. 

Beltran was replaced by the 26-year-old Matt Carpenter, who promptly blasted a monster two-run shot in his first at-bat to give the Cards a 2-1 lead in the third inning.

And I mean monster. ESPN's Jayson Stark expands: 

According to ESPN HR Tracker, Matt Carpenter's HR had "true distance" of 428 feet - 2d longest postseason HR in this park (Ethier, 438, '09)

— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 17, 2012


Carpenter's blast off Giants starter Matt Cain shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone. It doesn't matter who St. Louis throws out there, these guys just pick each other up.

There is also the little fact that Carpenter owns Cain!'s Anthony Castrovince highlights that with this tweet: 

Matt Carpenter now 5-for-5 with 4 RBIs in career against Matt Cain. If you have to replace Beltran... #STLCards

— Anthony Castrovince (@castrovince) October 17, 2012


You have to wonder why manager Mike Matheny didn't find a place for Carpenter in the starting lineup, but as it is, it worked out alright in St. Louis.

Other than that at-bat, Cain was fairly spectacular. He had great control and was not leaving anything for the Cardinals to hit. Cain allowed two hits and a run in the seventh before getting pulled and ending his day with 6.2 innings pitched in a six-hit, three-run effort.

Before the Cardinals half of the seventh concluded, rain put the game on hold for over three hours, and the bats were understandably cold when all returned. There would be no more scoring in this game. 

While Carpenter's blast is deservedly the big highlight from this game, it was their pitching that carried them to victory. Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse was not dominant, but he was supremely effective in picking up the win.

Lohse did not have his best control, as he walked five to just two strikeouts and gave up seven hits. However, he used 108 pitches to go 5.2 innings and allowed just one run, as he repeatedly made the big pitches when he needed to. 

Reliever Mitchell Boggs also turned in a fantastic performance. After Edward Mujica allowed two straight one-out singles, Boggs came in and faced two batters, got two strikeouts and went to the dugout with the Giants baserunners stranded on first and second. 

While Boggs deserves all the credit in the world for this spectacular effort, the Giants' failure in clutch moments should also be pointed out—and was by MLB's official Twitter account:

Phew! Mitchell Boggs gets Brandon Belt looking to escape trouble in 7th. @sfgiants have stranded 11 and @cardinals lead, 2-1. #NLCS

— MLB (@MLB) October 17, 2012


This is just the way things have been going for these uncannily-clutch Cardinals. If they get an injury, the rest of the team makes up for it, and in the end, this team finds a way to come out on top in clutch situations. 

San Francisco must find a way to answer that Cardinals swag by winning some of those moments, or this one might not make it back to San Francisco. 

Game 4 will be Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox, with Tim Lincecum likely to get the start for the Giants against the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright.