Outside of two home runs, big hits elude Giants in Game 4 loss to Cardinals
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Although the heart of the Giants' lineup changed, their predicament did not.
The top continued to produce in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, with Marco Scutaro getting his customary two hits and Angel Pagan joining him with two of his own.
But while the table setters again did their jobs, those who followed couldn't clear the table.
When this out-of-sync situation was pointed out to him following the 8-3 loss to the Cardinals, Hunter Pence could offer only the classic understatement: "It'd be good if everyone just hit every time. Yeah, that'd be great."
Nos. 1 and 2, Pagan and Scutaro, were 4-for-8. Nos. 3-5 -- Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hector Sanchez -- were 1-for-12.
Sanchez? Indeed, Pence was lowered to the six-hole, in the wake of having anointed himself the goat of Wednesday's 3-1 loss, in which his 0-for-4 had left five men on base.
Posey and Sandoval swapping places were other features of manager Bruce Bochy's lineup shakeup, which brought an odd mix of results.
"It's a game of adjustments. It's a little tweak I thought was necessary," Bochy had said.
There was no bottom-line payoff, obviously, as the Giants were held to a total of six hits by Adam Wainwright and reliever Fernando Salas.
Yet home runs by the displaced Pence and Sandoval accounted for the only scoring.
Pence's blow was more critical, a solo shot in the second that halved St. Louis' early 2-0 lead.
Buster Posey continues to struggle in the postseason, going 0-for-4 in Game 4
"It felt good, sure," Pence said about getting his first RBI of this postseason on his 32nd at-bat. "But we were still a run down and there was a lot of game left. I was more focused on the game than any personal success.
"I was glad to bring the game a little closer, and hoped I could spark it."
That did not happen, because before the Giants would score again, they were in an 8-1 hole. The big takaway was the possibility of Sandoval's two-run blow in the ninth giving them some offensive momentum into Game 5.
How much of that momentum will remain, of course, depends on Lance Lynn, the St. Louis starter.
The Giants' NLCS fate could ride on Lynn not being able to emulate Wainwright, who prevented any consistency in their attack with an assortment of pinpointed pitches, chief among them a nasty curve.
"Wainwright was really, really good tonight," Pence said. "His cutter was located and his curveball, same thing. He was really putting it where he wanted. I actually think Wainwright today was as good as you're going to see."
"We've got to get on base in the right situations," said Pagan, somehow faulting himself for getting his triple in the third inning with two outs, leaving him stranded on third when Scutaro followed with a grounder for one of his infrequent outs. "We're trying hard. We're putting up some good at-bats, grinding every one of them."
"We swing good," echoed Pence. "We'll always put up good at-bats. But somedays hitting the ball isn't enough; you've also got to find holes. Hopefully, we'll start finding more of those."
Those holes would replace the ones in the bats of San Francisco's key run producers. Posey, Sandoval and Pence ranked as their top three; through the first four games of the NLCS, they are batting a collective .174 (8-for-46) with four RBIs, three of them coming in Thursday night's game.
"We do have to get these bats going," Bochy said. "They're shutting us down. We'll get some guys on base, we're just missing a big hit here or there. It would be nice, make life a little easier and get some runs for our staff."
"Baseball isn't always easy," said Pence. "I felt like I had better at-bats. I'd rather have had more hits, sure. But that's the way it goes sometimes."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.