ST. LOUIS – The San Francisco Giants had every opportunity to grab control of the NL championship series Wednesday.
The NL West champions had nine hits and five walks but stranded 11 runners during a 3-1 loss to St. Louis that gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Cardinals were as opportunistic as the Giants were wasteful in a game delayed 3½ hours by rain. St. Louis scored its three runs on six hits and left only five runners on base in beating All-Star ace Matt Cain.
San Francisco went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, its lone run coming on Pablo Sandoval's third-inning groundout. By contrast, St. Louis was 2 for 4 with runners in scoring position.
Inning after inning, the Giants had opportunities. Six times they put at least two hitters on base in an inning.
"We had our chances," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We left too many on base."
Angel Pagan singled leading off the third and Marco Scutaro followed with a double. But after Sandoval's RBI grounder and an intentional walk to Buster Posey, Hunter Pence hit into a double play.
The Giants had runners on second and third with two outs in the fourth, but Pagan flied out to center. Pagan failed to come through again with two on and two outs in the sixth, grounding into a forceout.
Sandoval one-hopped the left-field wall with one out in the seventh, but Matt Holliday's strong throw held him to a single. That was a big play because Posey followed with a single. But reliever Mitchell Boggs came in to strike out Pence swinging and Brandon Belt looking.
Pence was perhaps the biggest rally-stopper for the Giants' offense, stranding six runners.
"I'm the goat tonight. I just didn't get the job done," he said.
"He's got to put this behind him like us, and be set tomorrow," Bochy said.
Cain was mostly solid but lost for the second time this postseason. Jon Jay looped a two-out single in the third and Matt Carpenter — playing only because Carlos Beltran was removed with a left knee strain — hit a 421-foot homer over the right-field bullpen. Before that, Carpenter was 4 for 4 in his career against Cain, all four of the regular-season hits for singles.
"Really there's no explanation," Carpenter said.
Cain said he was trying to throw a tight slider to Carpenter, but didn't get it in far enough.
"I made a bad pitch and it cost us," Cain said.
Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse was unusually wild, walking a season-high five (one intentionally) and allowing seven hits while throwing 108 pitches over 5 2-3 innings. But he got the outs he needed.
"I think today he would probably say he didn't have his best, but he was still out making pitches and figuring out how to get outs," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said.
The Cardinals managed just one runner after Carpenter's homer until the seventh, when David Freese doubled with one out and Daniel Descalso was intentionally walked. Pete Kozma singled to load the bases and Shane Robinson — inserted in a double-switch in the top half of the inning — grounded to second, scoring Freese just before a rain delay of 3 hours, 28 minutes.
Jason Motte got six straight outs for a two-inning save — the first of his career — after the stoppage.
The Cardinals snapped the Giants' five-game road winning streak in the postseason, three of them this year. Game 4 is in St. Louis on Thursday night, with Adam Wainwright pitching for the Cardinals.
The Giants are plucking two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum from the bullpen for a start in Game 4. Lincecum struggled through a 10-15 season with a 5.18 ERA but is 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in 8 1-3 innings this postseason, all in relief.
"He's the guy we want out there and he's been throwing the ball well," Bochy said.
Scutaro seemed fine after taking a hard hit from Matt Holliday on a late slide to break up a potential double play in Game 2. Scutaro was 2 for 4 and ran well on his third-inning double. He is batting .500 in the NLCS with two RBIs.
It was the third game delayed by rain this postseason and a fourth, Game 4 of the Yankees-Tigers ALCS, was postponed later Wednesday night. Two games between the Yankees and Orioles in Baltimore began late because of inclement weather.
The Giants entered 70-22 when scoring first, including the postseason.