- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The St. Louis Cardinals handled the tough part well, erasing a four-run deficit to force extra innings.

It was the simplest of tasks that sent them to a frustrating loss.

Randy Choate made a wild throw to first base on a bunt, allowing Brandon Crawford to score the winning run in the 10th inning as the San Francisco Giants beat the Cardinals 5-4 on Tuesday in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series.

“That’s the stuff you dream about when you’re a kid, besides hitting the homer,” Choate said. “Being out on the mound in a game like that with a crowd like that on the road, those are the kinds of challenges I look forward to. I love being out there for that. That’s just what makes that all the more disappointing, is that ball would get away from me like that.”

The 10th inning got off to a bad start for Choate, a specialist whose submarine deliveries make him especially difficult on left-handed batters. He couldn’t put away the first lefty he faced, walking Crawford on eight pitches.

Juan Perez then fouled off two bunt attempts before swinging away. He fouled off a couple of two-strike pitches before singling to left field to bring up another lefty in Gregor Blanco.

Choate got Blanco to bunt the ball right back to him and turned to throw to first, a play the reliever has rehearsed countless times in pitchers’ fielding practice throughout his career.

But the ball tailed on him and got past second baseman Kolten Wong, who was covering first, and went up the right-field line, allowing Crawford to score from second without a throw.

“He did exactly what I wanted him to do,” Choate said. “I’ve been doing PFPs since I was a kid, do them every spring training all the time. It was easy. It was right there and I blew it. The ball just sailed on me.”

Wong, who helped lead the comeback with a two-run triple, had virtually no chance to catch the errant throw.

“It’s not his fault,” Wong said. “This game is crazy. Things happen. It’s part of the game. There’s a beast of the game and the beauty of the game. That’s the bad part.”

The Giants took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Wednesday night, with Shelby Miller starting for the Cardinals against Ryan Vogelsong.

The Cardinals fell behind by four runs in the first when Hunter Pence hit an RBI double and Travis Ishikawa added a three-run double off John Lackey.

But the Giants managed just one hit between Ishikawa’s double and the start of the 10th inning as St. Louis fought back.

Wong’s double got the Cardinals on the board in the fourth against Tim Hudson. Jhonny Peralta added an RBI single in the sixth and Randal Grichuk tied it with a solo homer in the seventh.

But that was all St. Louis could manage, and the Cardinals once again find themselves trailing in the series after working so hard to tie it with their dramatic Game 2 win at home two days earlier.

“This is October,” Lackey said. “They all sting the same. We have to come back and get after it and get them tomorrow.”

UP NEXT

Miller will make his second postseason start after taking a no-decision for St. Louis in Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Dodgers. He said there will be a similar anxiety to his first start.

“Even with that one start under your belt, you’re starting in a hectic environment in San Francisco, got great fans that are loud and know baseball and love their team,” Miller said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yadier Molina ended his streak of 83 consecutive postseason starts when he was sidelined by a strained left oblique. A.J. Pierzynski became the first Cardinals player other than Molina to start at catcher in the postseason since current manager Mike Matheny did it in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series. Pierzynski went 0 for 4. Molina did go to the bullpen to help warm up closer Trevor Rosenthal, but did not get into the game.

STAT OF THE DAY

The Giants scored four runs in the first inning for the first time in the postseason since getting six against Boston ace Joe Wood in Game 7 of the 1912 World Series. Lackey had been particularly stingy to start games, allowing three first-inning runs in his previous 20 starts, including the NL Division Series.

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