Giants squander chances, lose Game 3

When the Giants needed a solid performance from Matt Cain, they got it.

When the Giants needed a big hit from one of their hitters, they got a weak ground ball.

Now the Giants face a 2-1 deficit in the NLCS as the Cardinals held on 3-1 in a long, slow Game 3 in St. Louis.

The Giants offense couldn’t capitalize on a number of opportunities to break the game open. When the rain interrupted the game in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Cardinals held a 3-1 lead. The Giants had nine hits and had left 11 runners on base.

The Giants left runners on in scoring position in the second, third, fourth, sixth and seventh innings.

Hunter Pence went 0-for-4 and is taking the brunt of the blame from the media. Bruce Bochy was asked after the game if he would move Pence down in the lineup. He didn’t have an answer for the reporters. We’ll find out Thursday when the lineup is announced.

When the media surrounded Pence at his locker, this is what he had to say:

Bochy acknowledged that as their downfall:

“We had our chances. We just left too many on base. And what you try to do in a game is to create those chances you had.”

After a three-hour and 28-minute rain delay, Javier Lopez finally got his chance to take the mound and got Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay to ground out to Brandon Belt to end the inning and keep the score at 3-1.

The Cardinals took no chances with a slim lead and turned the game over to their closer Jason Motte for a two-inning save. Rather than being patient, the Giants batters didn’t make Motte work at all.

The Giants couldn’t manage to get a baserunner against the Cardinals’ bearded closer. With Buster Posey representing the tying run on deck, Pablo Sandoval flew out to centerfield to seal a 3-1 win for the Cardinals.

One big pre-game topic was the status of Marco Scutaro, who injured his hip on a controversial slide by Matt Holliday in Game 2. To Scutaro’s credit, he took batting practice and fielded grounders before the game and was in the starting lineup.

While Cain gave up all three runs, he pitched well, going 6-2/3 innings. The big blow came in the third inning when Matt Carpenter — inserted into the game after Carlos Beltran left with a left knee injury — connected for a two-run home run that landed in the right field bleachers beyond the Cardinals bullpen.

Cain pitched well but ended up making the big mistake:

“Today we just came up a little short. I made a bad pitch and it cost us. … It was definitely the best I’ve felt of the three starts, so far.”

Bochy was asked about how Scutaro was feeling and what it says about his second baseman:

“I’m sure he was guttin’ it out. He’s such a tough guy. He was determined to play tonight. It says a lot about his make-up and how tough he is.”

In a must-win game on Thursday, the Giants will hand the ball to Tim Lincecum, who will make his first start of the postseason.

Bochy faces a tough lineup decision Thursday: does he start Hector Sanchez at catcher, Posey at first base and put Brandon belt on the bench? Or does he go with his normal lineup and let Posey catch Lincecum?

Barry Zito will start Game 5 on Friday.