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Grading NLCS Game 3: Cardinals' bullpen, bench make the difference

By C. Trent Rosecrans | Blogger
Mitchell Boggs didn't get a save, but he did record the night's biggest outs for St. Louis. (US Presswire)

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals haven't had the dominant pitching performances like they got out of Chris Carpenter a year ago, but other than that they've followed a similar pattern to a 2-1 series lead in the National League Championship Series -- a strong bullpen and different offensive heroes on different nights. Wednesday was just another victory for the Cardinal way.

Cardinals bullpen: It wasn't just that Jason Motte recorded the first six-out save of his career, it was the entirety of the St. Louis bullpen that picked up starter Kyle Lohse. Trevor Rosenthal retired the only batter he faced to get out of the sixth inning unscathed and after Edward Mujica allowed back-to-back hits in the seventh, Mitchell Boggs struck out both batters he faced, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt, to end the inning and the Giants' biggest threat. That set up Motte, who needed just 19 pitches to record six outs and end the game.

More playoff coverage
ALCS: Tigers vs. Yankees
NLCS: Cardinals vs. Giants

Cardinals bench: Not only did Matt Caprenter homer after taking over for an injured Carlos Beltran, Shane Robinson, who entered the game in a double switch, picked up an RBI on a fielder's choice in the seventh. Overall the subs went just 1 for 4 with a walk, but they made their at-bats count.

Matt Cain: Cain wasn't great, but he wasn't terrible, either. The right-hander left with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and two runners on, having already allowed three earned runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings. Before the seventh, his only real mistake was the pitch Carpenter belted for a two-run home run in the fourth. So far this postseason, any Giants starter pitching in the seventh inning has to be seen as something of a positive, even if he suffered the loss. At the very least, it kept Bruce Bochy from having to go to the bullpen.

Weather: A three-hour, 28-minute rain delay is never good, but the only thing that keeps this from being an F is that both pitchers were out of the game by the time the rain started. There was some concern before the game that the start would be delay or that it would come early, changing the complexion of the game. Instead, it held out until the bottom of the seventh. Just after Bruce Bochy sent Cain to the dugout and called in Javier Lopez, the umpires cleared the field.

Giants offense: San Francisco was 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday. Lohse walked five batters, but San Francisco wasn't able to take advantage of it, despite putting runners in scoring position in five different innings. The Giants had men on in each of the first seven innings, but could not come up with the big hit. Their only run scored on Pablo Sandoval's third-inning ground out.

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