“It was just out of nowhere,” Carpenter said.
And in the third inning, Beltran’s spot — now occupied by Carpenter — came up again, and Carpenter delivered the blow that won Game 3. His two-out, two-run homer off San Francisco Giants right-hander Matt Cain was the only offense the Cardinals needed in a 3-1 victory that put them up in the series, two games to one.
“It shows a lot about his character to be ready in that spot,” said Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse, who got the win despite allowing 12 base runners in 52
3 innings. “He could probably start for anybody, but he has to come off the bench here, and he handles it well.”
The Cardinals took the advantage in the series despite losing Beltran, who will be evaluated prior to Thursday’s Game 4. They took that advantage despite Lohse’s flirt-with-disaster outing, one in which he allowed only one run because the Giants went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. And they took that advantage after enduring a 3-hour, 28-minute rain delay in the seventh, one that turned a day game into a night game and inserted a lull into the intensity.
“Sit around, play games on our iPhones,” closer Jason Motte said of how he passed the delay. “Not much.”
Through all that, the pivotal inning started innocently enough. Cain retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the third before Cardinals leadoff man Jon Jay managed a soft liner to left-center that fell in for a hit. Still, one on, two outs in a game the Giants led 1-0, and someone other than Beltran coming to the plate? San Francisco — with Cain, a 16-game winner with a 2.79 ERA during the regular season — had every reason to feel comfortable in the situation.
Carpenter’s postseason career, to that point, consisted of five at-bats, all off the bench. He had one hit.
“He’s just been so versatile, there are times when we’re looking to see how we can get him in there,” Matheny said. “That’s a pretty strong statement with the lineup we have.”
There was one small wrinkle to Carpenter’s appearance Wednesday: He had four previous at-bats against Cain. The results: Four singles. “I can’t explain it,” Carpenter said.