ST. LOUIS — With a chance to take a commanding lead in the NL Championship Series, the San Francisco Giants' reliable bullpen failed to keep the ball in the park.
Two leads and a tie wiped out by three more homers in the late innings from the suddenly potent St. Louis Cardinals.
Pinch-hitter Oscar Taveras tied it with a solo home run off of Jean Machi in the seventh Sunday night, Matt Adams connected off September callup Hunter Strickland in the eighth, and Kolten Wong led off the bottom of the ninth with a homer off Sergio Romo to give St. Louis a 5-4 victory and even the best-of-seven series 1-1.
“The long ball got us tonight,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Game 3 is Tuesday in San Francisco.
The Giants' bullpen had been lights out in the playoffs, allowing just four runs in 20 2-3 innings this postseason. That included 10 2-3 scoreless innings in beating Washington 2-1 in 18 innings in Game 2 of the Division Series, and 1 1-3 scoreless innings against St. Louis in a win in the opener of the NLCS.
Sunday was a different story.
Matt Carpenter homered off starter Jake Peavy in the third inning. Then, the team that had an NL-low 105 homers, added three more for a total of 11 in six postseason games.
Trailing 2-0 in the fifth, the Giants rallied to take a one-run lead with reliever Jeremy Affeldt pitching two scoreless innings.
Pinch-hitter Joaquin Arias had an RBI groundout in the fifth, Hunter Pence a run-scoring single in the sixth and Gregor Blanco drove in a run in the seventh with a single.
Then things fell apart, with the Cardinals hitting solo shots in each of the final three innings.
Taveras, the Cardinals' top prospect but a bit of a disappointment since a midseason callup, homered just inside the right-field foul pole off Machi in the seventh.
Adams connected off Strickland. Strickland can reach triple-digits with his fastball but pitched just seven innings in the major leagues before the postseason, skipping Triple-A on his way up. He has a win and a save in the postseason, but has yielded four homers in four games.
The Giants scrambled to tie it in the ninth on a mad dash home. Singles by pinch-hitter Andrew Susac and Juan Perez put runners at first and second. Matt Duffy pinch-ran for Susac.
Down to their last strike, Duffy sprinted all the way from second on a two-out wild pitch by St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal.
Wong homered on Romo's second pitch, touching off a celebration at home plate.
“Changeup, down the middle,” Romo said. “It was a mistake.”
Bochy defended his relievers.
“They've all done such a great job,” Bochy said. “They're the reason we're in this situation.”
The win for St. Louis was costly. All-Star catcher Yadier Molina strained a muscle on his left side while hitting into a double play in the sixth inning. His availability going forward isn't certain.
“We don't know much more about it right now,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “He's out getting some looks right now from the doctors. And we'll know later. But didn't look real good.”
Molina's replacement, Tony Cruz, committed a passed ball that help set up San Francisco's go-ahead run in the seventh, and he couldn't initially find where the ball went on Rosenthal's wild pitch in the ninth, allowing Duffy to sprint home.
The road loss was rare for the Giants, who had won seven straight playoff games away from home before Sunday.
Giants: Hudson pitched well vs. Washington in Game 2 of the Division Series, allowing a run in 7 1-3 innings.
Cardinals: Lackey has a win each of the last three postseason series and is the active leader with 111 postseason innings.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME?
Fog began to descend on Busch Stadium late in the game, creating a San Francisco-like atmosphere, but it never got much below roof level and didn't appear to affect visibility.