SAN FRANCISCO — A team known for doing all the little things right is suddenly throwing away some big postseason games.
First baseman Matt Adams made back-to-back errant throws to key a three-run sixth inning for San Francisco, and the sloppy St. Louis Cardinals lost 6-4 to the Giants on Wednesday night to fall into a 3-1 hole in the NL Championship Series.
"We came out ready to play and things happen," Adams said. "Just got to make the throws."
St. Louis will try to avoid elimination in Game 5 on Thursday night, facing the same deficit the Giants came back from against the Cardinals in the 2012 NLCS. Adam Wainwright will start for the Cardinals, and left-hander Madison Bumgarner will go for the Giants.
Games 6 and 7, if necessary, would be in St. Louis.
Those plans are on hold now. A day after reliever Randy Choate’s wild throw to first on Gregor Blanco’s bunt allowed the Giants to score the winning run in the 10th inning, the Cardinals crumbled under pressure again.
St. Louis led 4-1 in the third and looked ready to even the best-of-seven series. Instead, San Francisco scored twice in the third and took advantage of the Cardinals’ miscues late.
Left-hander Marco Gonzales walked Juan Perez and gave up a single to Brandon Crawford to start the sixth. After pinch-hitter Matt Duffy’s sacrifice bunt, Blanco hit a hard chopper to Adams playing in at first base.
Adams couldn’t quite grip the ball and get his feet set, and he skipped his throw in the dirt to catcher Tony Cruz trying to nab Perez at the plate. On the next play, Adams fielded a grounder by Joe Panik and stepped on first, then turned and threw well wide of second trying to get a double play, pulling shortstop Jhonny Peralta off the bag.
With Peralta stumbling to make the catch, Crawford scored the go-ahead run from third.
"That’s not really the play we want," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
Buster Posey followed with an RBI single to give the Giants a 6-4 lead, and the Cardinals never recovered.
On the first play, Adams said he had a "good chance" to get Panik out if he made an on-target throw. On the second, he said he should’ve just stepped on first and checked Crawford at third.
"They were both fast runners, so I was trying to get the ball out as quickly as possible and make the throw," Adams said.
St. Louis ranked fourth in the NL and eighth in the majors for the fewest errors this season with 88, but has seen its slick-fielding ways fade under October’s bright lights.
"They’ve made mistakes the last two games and we’ve been making them pay for it," Perez said. "You don’t expect them to make so many mistakes, but we’ve got to keep making them pay for it by putting runners on base and making things happen."
Defense has been a concern for the Cardinals since catcher and leader Yadier Molina strained a muscle in his left side in Game 2, and Matheny’s infield hasn’t looked quite as imposing since. A.J. Pierzynski started behind the plate for the second straight game before Cruz took over later.
Hunter Pence stole second in the fifth, beating Pierzynski’s throw. Blanco’s hard-hit fly to center also bounced off Jon Jay’s glove for a double in the first, leading to a run for San Francisco.
"I think that when the ball’s rolling your way like that, there’s not much you can do on the defensive side," said Gonzales, who was charged with three runs and the loss. "You just got to try to roll with the punches and punch back."
Matheny said Molina would’ve entered the game at catcher had the Cardinals extended the game in the ninth, when Daniel Descalso pinch-hit for Cruz. Descalso popped out to Crawford at shortstop.
Cardinals: Wainwright has allowed eight earned runs and 17 hits in nine innings this postseason. He blamed mechanical woes and not a chronic elbow issue after losing Game 1 to San Francisco and insists he has worked everything out.
Giants: Bumgarner gave up just four hits in 7 2-3 innings in the Giants’ 3-0 win in Game 1 at St. Louis. He also pitched a four-hitter in San Francisco’s 8-0 win in the wild-card game at Pittsburgh before taking the loss in Game 3 of the Division Series against Washington.