ST. LOUIS The Giants had plenty of time to forget the first act Wednesday. In it, they sent 10 men to the plate with a runner in scoring position and did not have a hit, while the St. Louis Cardinals had one such at-bat in the first six innings and Matt Carpenter, subbing for an injured Carlos Beltran, used it to take Matt Cain deep into the right-field bleachers.
After a 3-hour, 28-minute intermission while rain soaked Busch Stadium, there was no twist ending. The twist was Beltran, one of the best postseason hitters ever, leaving Game 3 of the National League Championship Series after one inning because of a knee injury and Carpenter, a rookie, delivering the hit most responsible for handing the Giants a 3-1 loss.
With the Giants stranding 11 runners, Carpenter's two-run homer in the third inning was enough to put the Giants in a 2-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series, despite their ace Cain having his best start this postseason. The Giants will try to even the series today behind Tim Lincecum, the embattled right-hander making his first start of the 2012 playoffs.
"We felt it was an important game, no getting around it," manager Bruce Bochy said. "And we got a great effort by Matt. He pitched well, made that one mistake.
"He gave us a chance to win. And we had our chances."
The Giants led 1-0 in the third when Carpenter stepped in for his first at-bat against Cain. Beltran owns the best career postseason average of any player with at least 100 at-bats (.375). But Carpenter this year owned a perfect average against Cain in four regular-season at-bats.
Cain spun a 2-2 slider, and Carpenter hit it for his first postseason home run. It was the fourth homer Cain has allowed in his three playoff starts, after he gave up just one in 321/3 innings over his final five regular-season starts.
"It was a bad pitch," Cain said. "I was trying to go with a slider down and in, and I didn't get it in there like I should have."
Otherwise, Cain said, it was "probably the best I've felt" in these playoffs.
Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse, meanwhile, labored through 52/3 innings, allowing seven hits and walking five, but the Giants couldn't make him pay.
The Giants went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, their lone run coming on Pablo Sandoval's groundout in the third inning that scored Angel Pagan from third base.
Hunter Pence came up empty twice with two on and one out, grounding into a double play in the third inning and striking out in the seventh, and after the game tried to shoulder the responsibility for the Giants' offensive struggles.
"Yeah, this one, I'm the goat today," Pence said. "I didn't get the job done in big opportunities, and I'm going to go home, learn from what happened and come back we've got a big game tomorrow and be hungry."
Catcher Buster Posey, who was walked twice ahead of Pence, countered: "He's definitely not the goat.
"I feel confident every time he's up there with runners in scoring position, 'cause he's done such a good job since coming over from Philly," Posey said. "It's never just one person."
Pence has struggled in the playoffs, going 5 for 31 (.161) with no RBIs after he drove in 104 runs during the regular season, and Bochy said after the game there may be discussions about dropping Pence in the lineup.
"Wherever he wants to put me," said Pence, who insisted he is not pressing. "I'm going to give him my all wherever he's going to put me. I haven't gotten it done yet, but to me, I come here feeling confident every day no matter what."
After Pence's strikeout in the seventh, Brandon Belt struck out looking to end the inning as rain began to fall in earnest. The Cardinals scored in their half of the inning on a bases-loaded groundout by Shane Robinson second baseman Marco Scutaro said he threw to first because he wasn't sure he had a play at the plate and as Bochy walked out to relieve Cain, play was halted.
Heavy rain and wind pelted the field for the next several hours, sending the teams into their clubhouses and the crowd of 45,850 for cover. When play resumed, Javier Lopez got Jon Jay to ground out to end the inning, which closed the book on Cain nearly 3 1/2 hours after Cain threw his last pitch.
Cardinals closer Jason Motte pitched the final two innings to earn the save.