It took Tim Lincecum an inning to get settled, and it was this inning that cost the San Francisco Giants dearly as the two runs that the St. Louis Cardinals scored on a Matt Holliday single that drove in Jon Jay, and a sacrifice fly from Allen Craig that brought Matt Carpenter home, seemed impenetrable for most of the game, even after the Giants got one back in the second inning off of a solo home run from the struggling Hunter Pence.

That feeling of helplessness was a testament to how well Adam Wainwright was pitching, using his curve ball as well as advertised, but also setting up with a sinker and a cutter combo that did well to avoid hard contact from the San Francisco lineup. By the time that the Cardinals added two more runs in the fifth inning, which finally chased Lincecum from the game, the three run lead seemed insurmountable.

The game didn’t truly get away from the Giants though until Jon Jay drove a Jose Mijares offering off the wall in center field to score Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma to give St. Louis a 6-1 lead in the sixth inning. Then, in the seventh, Allen Craig scored on a double off the bat of Yadier Molina, who later scored on a Pete Kozma single to push the seemingly ever-expanding score to 8-1. A garbage time home run from Pablo Sandoval that also brought home Marco Scutaro in the ninth inning, made the score a slightly more respectable 8-3, but that was it for the Giants, and the game woulld mercifully end with a five run deficit.

The St. Louis Cardinals are now one win away from going back to the World Series. Nothing is going to come easy for the San Francisco Giants, who will send Barry Zito to the mound with the season on his shoulders Friday night. Lance Lynn will counter for St. Louis with the first pitch scheduled for shortly after 8:00 PM ET.

The Win Expectancy Graph

The Adjusted Win Expectancy Graph

The Most Important Play Of The Game

Take your pick from any of the run scoring plays for the St. Louis Cardinals, or anytime that a curve ball was swung at resulting in contact or a miss for the San Francisco Giants, it didn’t really seem to matter. The Giants were outplayed tonight by the better team, plain and simple. According to win probability added, it was Matt Holliday’s single in the first that resulted in the biggest increase in the probability of the Cardinals winning.

After struggling over the last two games in the series, Holliday knocked in two runs tonight with two singles. It’s almost as though he’s really, really good. In fact, if we look at the last seven years, only two players have accumulated a higher amount of wins above replacement according to Fangraphs: Albert Pujols and Chase Utley.

Still, if we were inclined to give out a player of the game award, it would most certainly go to Adam Wainwright who threw seven innings tonight, giving up only a single run over four hits and no walks, while striking out five opponents. It was as good, if not better, as any start that a Cardinals pitcher has made this postseason.

The Shamsky Award

Named after Art Shamsky, who single handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.

Hunter Pence scored and drove in his team’s first run tonight. If only he could’ve coordinated his breaking out of a serious power drought with the rest of his team getting on base. He increased his team’s probability of winning by six percent in total with his plate appearances.

The Aggravating Thing The Broadcast Crew Did

Via 30FPS.

The Aggravating Thing That The Manager Did

Throughout the season, Bruce Bochy penciled in Hector Sanchez as the starting catcher whenever Tim Lincecum was pitching, and typically, this move would push Buster Posey to first base, and Brandon Belt to the bench.  Bochy did this once again, despite the glaring difference between Belt’s offensive talents and Sanchez’s offensive talents. It was frustrating to see offense sacrificed on a night when the team could’ve really used a good at bat or two. Sanchez went 0-for-3.

The Aggravating Thing For Yadier Molina

This happened to Yadier Molina in the bottom of the third inning.

The Things You Won’t Believe

Talking heads are still inferring that there’s something meaningful about Matt Holliday running into Marco Scutaro in Game Two, which is only slightly worse than making mocking jokes about this practice.

Hunter Pence hit a home run.

Adam Wainwright threw the fourth most curve balls in baseball this season, and tonight he showed a willingness to throw it in situations that other pitchers would not. It comes in a bit slower than a usual hook, but on average it has more movement on it, horizontally and vertically combined, than any other curve ball in Major League Baseball. This could very well be the result of two different curves: one that sweeps and another that spikes. He appeared to be able to do both tonight.

Matt Carpenter has gotten on base four times this series. That’s as many times as Pablo Sandoval. Carpenter had his first plate appearance in the second inning of Game Three.

All nine players in the Cardnals starting lineup got on base on Thursday night. The last batter to do so was Allen Craig who drove in the second run of the game on a sacrifice fly in the first inning.

Coming into tonight, Buster Posey had seen 54 pitches from St. Louis pitchers, 35 of those pitches were on outer-third of plate or further outside.

If St. Louis wins the NLCS, the World Series will be contested between two 88-win teams. Ten teams won more games than the Cardinals and Detroit Tigers this season.

Don’t give up entirely though, as 11 of 76 Major League Baseball teams that have fallen behind 3-1 have come back to win the best-of-seven series.

Tweets Of The Game

Stray Observations

Tim Lincecum threw 25 pitches in the first inning, 19 pitches in the second inning, and then, just eight pitches in the third inning. I imagined things getting progressively more difficult for Lincecum each time through the order, but it seemed to me that he did a better job of keeping the ball low in the zone, especially on his breaking pitches, after the first few innings. However, he fell behind to batters far too often, once again, and was finally lifted with two outs in the fifth inning, after having given up four earned runs on six hits and three walks.

How is Matt Carpenter?

There was a moment, not too long ago, that San Francisco Giants fans would have been prepared to allow Angel Pagan walk via free agency this coming off season, while hoping that the team would concentrate its efforts on locking up Melky Cabrera to a long-term contract. Yeah, not so much any more.

There was some blame heaped on Brandon Crawford for his less than perfect relay throw home when Matt Carpenter scored the Cardinals third run, but blame lies solely with Hector Sanchez who had time and should have been able to handle the ball on the hop, no matter how intimidating Carpenter’s footsteps might have been.

The Cardinals finally got to the Giants bullpen, after being essentially shut out in the previous three games. St. Louis collected six hits from 16 plate appearances.

Tim Lincecum In Slow Motion

It’s just not the same anymore, is it?