Baggs' Instant Replay: Cards beat Cain for 2-1 NLCS lead


Baggs' Instant Replay: Cards beat Cain for 2-1 NLCS lead

ST. LOUIS Hunter Pence has done so much to ignite the Giants this postseason all of it outside the batters box.That must change if confetti sweepers hope to get any work on Market Street in the coming weeks. It hasnt yet. And while Rev. Pence wasnt the only Giant who looked like he didnt have a prayer in RBI situations, he sits in a position of prominence behind cleanup man Buster Posey.So he was the first one through the rain-splashed windshield as the Giants lost 3-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLCS Wednesday night.The Giants were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position while falling behind 2-1 in this best-of-seven series.The Doppler radar proved more foreboding than the Giants lineup. The flying-cattle front finally arrived to halt the game (for three hours, 28 minutes) in the seventh inning. The run support for Matt Cain never did.It led to a ritual, retro-night Caining for Cain, who paid for one mistake, and it was one too many.Starting pitching reportCain established all his pitches early, and aside from catching his spike on one wild delivery, he never appeared out of sorts.He needed just nine pitches in the first inning, just 10 in the second inning and the Giants appeared to catch a huge break when Carlos Beltran left the game after one double-play grounder because of a strained left knee.But like the Reds early loss of Johnny Cueto eight pitches into the Giants postseason run, no breaks are what they appear to be.The Cardinals replaced Beltran with a part-timer, Matt Carpenter, who was 4 for 4 in his career against Cain. He made it 5 for 5 in the third inning, connecting on a 2-2 slider for a two-run home run that sent St. Louisans into a towel-waving stupor.Cain was on his way to another smooth frame before Jon Jay hit a two-out single ahead of Carpenters shot, which eradicated a 1-0 Giants lead.Cain responded by retiring 11 of the next 12 hitters before the rain finally arrived in the seventh. David Freese hit a one-out double, and after an intentional walk, Pete Kozma singled to load the bases. Shane Robinson followed with a ground ball to second baseman Marco Scutaro, who looked home before throwing to first base as a run scored.That was the last pitch Cain threw, and the last action before the tarp came off the cylinder.Even before umpires signaled the delay, Bruce Bochy had indicated for a pitching change. Left-hander Javier Lopez officially was in the game as the game went into delay.Bullpen reportLopez warmed up both before and after the rain delay, which clocked in at three hours, 28 minutes just enough time to screen Gandhi! when he threw a pitch to Jay.Lopez got a ground out to strand Cains runners. It only seemed like they belonged to Ed Halicki.Jose Mijares and George Kontos combined for a zero in the ninth.At the plateKyle Lohse had an 8-1 record at Busch Stadium, he hadnt lost at home since June 15 and he allowed the fourth fewest baserunners per inning among NL pitchers this season.The Giants managed the baserunners, but nothing else.Lohse walked five in a game for the first time in more than four years -- and allowed seven hits, too -- but the Giants stranded 11 of 12 baserunners in his 5 23 innings.They minimized a huge chance in the third inning, after Angel Pagan hit a leadoff single and Marco Scutaro showed no effects from Mondays collision while hustling a double on a poke shot down the first base line.Pablo Sandoval hit an RBI grounder to short, but Lohse made pretense of three pitches to Buster Posey before issuing an intentional ball four. Pence followed by lunging for a double-play grounder.The bottom of the order set the table in the fourth as Gregor Blanco walked and took third on Brandon Crawfords single. But Cain fouled off a safety squeeze attempt and Pagan flied out to center to strand two in scoring position.The Giants threatened again in the sixth when Crawford and Cain hit two-out singles to knock Lohse from the game. But Trevor Rosenthal threw a 101 mph fastball and Pagan grounded into a fielders choice to end the inning.The third and the seventh were the best of the worst, though. Sandoval and Posey hit one-out singles off Edward Mujica in the seventh, but Mitchell Boggs made Pence and Brandon Belt look more awkward than usual while striking them both out. Pence went down swinging with his right knee almost on the ground and Belt complained when plate umpire Bill Miller rang him up on a pitch on the black.The Giants were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and two of those at-bats belonged to Pence, which is notable because he is still stuck on zero RBIs in eight postseason games.That is a stark difference from the regular season, when Pence drove in 45 in 59 games as a Giant despite hitting just .219.And Belt needed a strong game to hold off thoughts of starting Hector Sanchez behind the plate and Posey at first base in Game 4. Instead, you can almost bank on that configuration for Game 4.The Giants had a shot in the late innings because the Cardinals lost Boggs to the delay, meaning it was up to Jason Motte to dance a six-out save. But Blanco, Crawford and pinch hitter Aubrey Huff went down on just nine pitches in the eighth. Motte went six up, six down on 19 pitches total.It seems so long ago, but in Huffs previous game at this ballpark, he cranked three home runs. That was June, 2011.Pagan, Scutaro and Crawford combined to go 5 for 11, but the Giants were just too soft in the middle of the order.In fieldSandoval made a diving stop at third base to take a hit away from Lohse in the fifth, but the most notable defensive play might have been Beltrans double-play grounder in the first.It was the first ball hit to Scutaro since the hard slide knocked him out of Game 2, and not only did he handle it without incident, but Jay went feet first into second base and didnt try any overly aggressive tactics on Crawford to break up the play.Jay was hit by Cains second pitch of the game, but there was no apparent intent.AttendanceThe Cardinals announced 45,850 paid, who bravely attended despite a weather radar map that meshed with Jackson Pollocks aesthetic. Roughly half the fans endured the delay, earning them whatever passes for a Croix de Candlestick in these parts.Up nextThe Giants and Cardinals meet in Game 4 Thursday night at Busch Stadium. Right-hander Adam Wainwright (0-0, 7.88 in two postseason starts), who dug the most celebrated six-run hole in Cardinals franchise history in his last outing against Washington, will take the mound for St. Louis. The Giants will hand the ball to Tim Lincecum (1-0, 1.08 in three postseason appearances) for his first playoff start since the Game 5 clincher in the 2010 World Series at Texas. First pitch is scheduled for 5:07 pm. PDT. Bochy also confirmed after the loss that Barry Zito will start Game 5.

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

The National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez Wednesday. Here's what they and their peers are saying.

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

The Baseball Hall of Fame becomes yesterday’s news Friday, as it always does. Three months of buildup, one day to announce the names, one day to castigate the voters for their willfully negligent slights, and then nine months of hibernation.

So much for the concept of “joining the immortals.”

But at least Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez never have to go through this annual pageant of nonsense again.

Barry Bonds does, though, and so does Roger Clemens, and to a lesser extent, so does Curt Schilling. They are the new litmus strips for the Hall, and they will more than replace Raines (voter ignorance division) and Bagwell (presumption of guilt with evidence division) for self-involved debate.

And in that adjusted role from doomed outsiders to serious candidates, Bonds and Clemens – and to a lesser extent again, Schilling – have become invaluable to the Hall, and their eventual election and induction will reduce the Hall’s ability to inflame passions outside the seamhead community.

On a day when Bagwell and Raines finally cleared the 75 percent threshold and Bonds and Clemens moved from 45 percent to 53.8 and 54.1 percent, respectively, the Hall of Fame Debating And Chowder Society saw the end times for its power as a multi-month debate-churner.

The blatherers are dead, long live the blatherers.

An entire mini-industry of Hall watchers has been spawned, in part by the now-feted Ryan Thibodaux and his exit polling but also by the debates about what the Hall should be and who should get to decide it. It has made days like Wednesday event viewing when it hadn’t been for years. For that, the Hall owes Bonds and Clemens a debt that the powers inside Major League Baseball wishes it didn’t have to pay. But the day they are inducted is the day that PEDs die as a debating point. The answer will have been provided, and there will be no more need for discussion.

Worse yet, the BBWAA’S new voter transparency rules may unfortunately impact our pal Thibodaux, whose seminal work in this understudied area of social science undermined ballot secrecy. In short, if everyone has to fess up, the desperate need to know early returns may dry up.

Oh, there will always be the day of post mortem-ization, as those who didn’t clear the threshold are subject to a few rounds of the popular parlor game, “Who Got Snubbed, And The Tedious And Half-Informed Reasons Why.”

For instance, the big debating point from today’s results will not be about Raines and Guerrero getting in, but what happened to the Bonds and Clemens votes. People have already postulated that a lot of the jump in their respective votes can be directly linked to Bud Selig’s election from the Veterans Committee. Voters who had previously ridden the Hall-as-temple argument suddenly lost their raison d’etre and realized that the PED problem was an industry matter rather than a greedy players’ matter.

In short, they saw Selig getting in as tacit approval that the PED issue was no longer a moral one in baseball but a cynical one, a way to blame labor for management’s culpability. That is an irony whose existence Selig will almost surely deny, but it’s there anyway, and it represents one more non-glacial change in a system that has been nearly immovable for most of its existence.

The next change, of course, may be removing the vote from the BBWAA and turning it over to a more malleable panel of “experts” who may not skew as young and values-neutral as the BBWAA of the future seems to be heading. That course may be hastened if/when Bonds and Clemens are elected, because halls of fame in their more traditional role have been more about rewarding friends and punishing enemies, and a large and shifting electorate makes that harder to accomplish.

The argument against such a course, though, is that the current system of three months of fevered public debate about the same old stuff works for the Hall’s sense of its importance. I mean, MLB Network and its fetish for shrill argument only has so much reach.

By Friday, though, all of this will revert to its typically inert state. Bonds, Clemens (ATALE Schilling), PEDs, morality, practicality, secrecy, old voter/young voter – all of it will fade back into insignificance.

And in a year or two or maybe three, Bonds and Clemens will wipe it all out by being included in the one club that we once knew would never tolerate their presence, and the Hall Of Fame’s Golden Age Of Shrieking Argument will end.

In a weird and largely unpleasant way, it will be missed.