Bunt City: Giants take 2-1 NLCS lead over Cards on walk-off sacrifice, error
The Cardinals escaped Game 2 -- barely -- with a 5-4 win to tie the National League Championship Series with the Giants, 1-1, but in the process they lost Yadier Molina to an oblique strain while also heading off to AT&T Park for the series' next three games.
That set the stage for Game 3 on Tuesday, pitting San Francisco right-hander Tim Hudson against St. Louis righty John Lackey. It was Hudson's first LCS start in 16 Major League seasons and Lackey's sixth in 12 years.
The Giants pounced on Lackey early -- Hunter Pence broke open the scoring with a double to right, then Lackey intentionally walked Brandon Belt to load the bases for Travis Ishikawa.
Ishikawa sent a first-pitch fastball to a windy right field. Cards right fielder Randal Grichuk seemingly lost it in the gusts, and the ball bounced low off the wall in right-center, allowing three runs to score for a 4-0 Giants lead:
(Foreshadowing: That's not the last time the wind or Grichuk impacted the game.)
Definitely a catchable ball for Randal Grichuk, who is in the lineup for defensive purposes. #stlcards- Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) October 14, 2014
Grichuk did everything right. As outfielders, our job is to anticipate landing spot, heavy wind kills our ability to accurately predict.- gabe kapler (@gabekapler) October 14, 2014
The top of the fourth brought a similar issue, this time on a drive off the bat of Game 2 hero, St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong. Pence, also dealing with the wind in right, couldn't track it down, and the ball bounced off the wall in right-center, just feet from where Ishikawa's landed. Jon Jay and Matt Holliday scored on Wong's triple. Just like that, 4-2:
The Cards continued to chip away in the sixth. Jhonny Peralta sent a ground ball to the left side, and Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval couldn't handle a tough hop. It skipped over his glove to allow Jay to score and narrow the San Fran lead to 4-3:
Grichuk -- remember how we said he'd impact the game again? -- tied it at 4 in the seventh. His line drive to left was good for his second homer of the postseason, this one off the foul pole:
Then again, maybe Randal Grichuk is in the lineup for his offense. #stlcards- Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) October 14, 2014
It remained that way until the bottom of the 10th, when Brandon Crawford walked and Juan Perez -- after twice failing to get a bunt down -- singled to left for the Giants' first hit since the fourth.
Gregor Blanco successfully bunted, and St. Louis reliever Randy Choate threw it down the first-base line. Crawford scored. Giants won, 5-4:
The Game Changer
Just before the game's unlikely ending in the bottom of the 10th, Sandoval made a fantastic play to send it there. Jay singled with two outs, and Holliday worked a full count against Sergio Romo before sending a grounder down the line.
With one big step to his right, Sandoval made the stop, this time handling the funny hop. He fired to first in plenty of time:
Other Key Players, Plays
San Francisco's big first inning might have been bigger if not for Jay flashing some leather. He ranged well to his left to rob Joe Panik for the second out. Put another way, Jon Jay took a hit away from a graduate of John Jay High outside New York City:
Remember that Pence double? The one in the first inning for a 1-0 San Fran lead? Pence showed shades of Vladimir Guerrero on the swing, getting good wood on a ball well above the strike zone:
Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco returned Jay's favor and then some in the top of the eighth. He made a nifty sliding grab on Matt Adams' sinking liner, then ranged into right-center for Peralta's drive. Check out the perfect form on his slide:
Lackey, aside from the rough first inning, pitched well. He gave up just those four runs on five hits in six innings, before manager Mike Matheny lifted him for a pinch-hitter in the seventh:
Lackey has retired 11 of 12 and was at 79 pitches. I certainly would not have taken him out of this post-season base ball game.- Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) October 14, 2014
With the Giants leading the NLCS, 2-1, the teams will get back after it in Game 4 at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday. Righties Shelby Miller and Ryan Vogelsong get the ball for the Cardinals and Giants, respectively, at AT&T Park.
Miller is coming off his first career postseason start, 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball against the Dodgers. Vogelsong, meanwhile, is the only pitcher in MLB history to yield one run or fewer in his first five postseason starts.