ST. LOUIS — Carlos Beltran limped to the trainer’s room, taking the St. Louis Cardinals’ biggest clutch October bat with him.
Turns out they had the perfect substitute.
Matt Carpenter hit a two-run homer after subbing for Beltran, and the Cardinals chased Matt Cain before a 31/2-hour rain delay in the seventh inning of a 3-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night for a 2-1 National League Championship Series lead.
Beltran strained his left knee running out a double-play ball in the first inning, and the Cardinals said he was day-to-day.
Kyle Lohse worked around a season-worst five walks in 52/3 innings. Mitchell Boggs struck out Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt with two on to end the seventh. Jason Motte earned the first two-inning save of his career to reward what remained of a sellout crowd of 45,850 — perhaps a third — that stuck around for a game that lasted 3 hours, 2 minutes, about a half-hour shorter than the delay.
“They said if we didn’t score I was going to go out there. I was in the clubhouse running around. I’ve never really had to sit around like that,” Motte said. “It was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been.”
Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro had two hits and a clean game in the field, two days after Matt Holliday rammed him breaking up a double-play ball. Manager Bruce Bochy had said there would be no retaliation, and Game 3 was collision-free.
The big winners in a delay that featured about a half-hour without rain while officials awaited a second, smaller front: Beer vendors, by a single out. Alcohol sales are cut off after the seventh inning in all stadiums.
Cain lost for the second time this postseason, giving up three runs on five hits in 6 innings. The Giants, who entered the game batting just .217 in the postseason, were 0-for -7 with runners in scoring position.
The Cardinals snapped the Giants’ five-game road winning streak in the postseason, three of them this year. Game 4 is in St. Louis tonight, with Adam Wainwright pitching for the Cardinals. Tim Lincecum will start for the Giants.
“He’s a guy we want out there. He’s been throwing the ball well,” Bochy said of Lincecum, a former University of Washington standout. “We’ve got to bounce back.”
Carpenter followed Jon Jay’s two-out single with a homer off Cain in his first at-bat of the NLCS.
Beltran is batting .400 in the postseason with three homers and six RBI, but Carpenter had big numbers against Cain. He was 4-for-4 for his career against Cain, all four of the regular-season hits for singles.
“He’s a really good pitcher, obviously,” Carpenter said. “I’ve had some success. I just go up there and try to battle, get a good pitch to hit.”
This one was a much bigger deal, a drive on a 2-2 count that soared over the Cardinals’ bullpen in right field and was estimated at 421 feet.
Carpenter entered the game 1-for-5 in the postseason, all five pinch-hit appearances. He had an RBI single in the wild-card playoff against Atlanta. He got 14 of his 46 RBI in April as the primary sub at first base for injured Lance Berkman.
Umpires called for the tarpaulin right after the Cardinals made it 3-1 on a run-scoring single by Shane Robinson and Cain was lifted.
It was the third game delayed by rain this postseason and a fourth, Game 4 of the Yankees-Tigers ALCS, was postponed later Wednesday.
The rain intensified less than 10 minutes after the field was covered, chasing most fans who had remained in their seats up to that point. Spotters for the National Weather Service reported 60 mph winds in nearby St. Charles County.
The storm had been widely anticipated. Both managers fielded questions about whether the probability of rain would affect their selection of the starting pitcher. Both said they couldn’t worry about the weather, and the starters combined for 208 pitches.