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10/19/10 10:47 PM ET

Cain on your parade: Giants up 2-1 on Phillies

Righty tosses seven superb frames; Ross tallies go-ahead RBI

SAN FRANCISCO -- Staring at his target through shadows that didn't quite obscure his impassive gaze, Matt Cain appeared perfectly suited for the month and the moment.

He was an October pitcher, following the hallowed examples of Gibson, Koufax and others who excelled in the postseason. And he brought the Giants a step closer to the goal that has eluded them since 1954.

Cain limited the Phillies to two hits over seven innings Tuesday as the Giants secured a 3-0 victory in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

"Our MVP today was Matt Cain," center fielder Aaron Rowand said.

Thrilling the heavily partisan crowd at jam-packed AT&T Park, San Francisco edged ahead in the series, 2-1, with another pair of games set to be played by the Bay on Wednesday and Thursday.

Of the 19 previous teams to grab a 2-1 lead in the NLCS, 15 have advanced to the World Series, which the Giants haven't won for 55 years. Facing the Phillies, who have represented the NL in the Fall Classic for the last two seasons, the Giants are pleased but not giddy about their status in this series.

"To go up 2-1 when we still have two left at home is big," Rowand said. "The home-field advantage comes into play a lot more in the playoffs than it does in the regular season."

Multiple Giants also came into play -- or, more fittingly, they came to play. Edgar Renteria, one of manager Bruce Bochy's additions to a revamped lineup, singled to ignite San Francisco's two-run fourth inning. Aaron Rowand, another veteran who left the bench to start, doubled and scored an inning later. Cody Ross, the club's best postseason hitter, again came through by singling home a fourth-inning run on a pitch that looked impossible to hit.

The Giants collected only five hits off Hamels, who spun a Division Series-clinching shutout on Oct. 10 in Cincinnati. But each one counted toward their scoring as they amassed all of their runs off Hamels with two outs.

2-1 lead in NLCS play
With the Giants' victory in Game 3, an NLCS stands at 2-1 for the 20th time since it became a best-of-seven series in 1985. Fifteen of the previous 19 teams went on to win its NLCS.
Year Team up 2-1 Opponent Final
2010 Giants Phillies
2009 Phillies Dodgers 4-1
2008 Phillies Dodgers 4-1
2006 Cardinals Mets 4-3
2005 Astros Cardinals 4-3
2004 Cardinals Astros 4-3
2003 Cubs Marlins 4-3
2002 Giants Cardinals 4-1
2001 D-backs Braves 4-1
2000 Mets Cardinals 4-1
1997 Marlins Braves 4-2
1996 Cardinals Braves 4-3
1993 Braves Phillies 4-2
1992 Braves Pirates 4-3
1991 Braves Pirates 4-3
1990 Reds Pirates 4-2
1989 Giants Cubs 4-1
1988 Mets Dodgers 4-3
1987 Cardinals Giants 4-3
1986 Mets Astros 4-2
Winners of the NLCS listed in bold.

"That's the way it's going to have to be in this series," first baseman Aubrey Huff said of the Giants' waste-not, want-not offense. "The pitching's so dominant."

Cain, who recorded a team-high 25 quality starts this season, helped continue that trend.

The 26-year-old right-hander led the Giants to their second home postseason shutout, matching Tim Lincecum's two-hit, 14-strikeout effort in Game 1 of the Division Series against Atlanta. The Giants hadn't accomplished this since the 1917 World Series,when they blanked the Chicago White Sox in Games 3 and 4.

Cain also extended the Giants' streak of postseason quality starts to 7-for-7. He stranded seven baserunners, including four in scoring position. Cain kept pouring low fastballs and changeups past the Phillies, who have gone 2-for-27 with runners in scoring position since the eighth inning of Game 2 of the Division Series.

"Really, the main goal today was to try to keep the ball closer to the knees and stay at the bottom of the strike zone," said Cain, who had never defeated Philadelphia in five career regular-season starts.

Combined with his Division Series outing against Atlanta, Cain has allowed nine hits and one unearned run in 13 2/3 innings this postseason.

"I pretty much feel like we're going to be in for something good every time he's out there," catcher Buster Posey said.

Initially, the same could have been said of Hamels. He opened the game with three perfect innings before Renteria's hit opened the Giants' fourth. Renteria moved to second base on Freddy Sanchez's sacrifice bunt and appeared destined to languish there after Posey struck out. But Pat Burrell coaxed a walk to prolong the inning for Ross.

Once again, Ross prevailed. Having homered three times in the series' first two games, he reached for a 2-1 fastball that couldn't have been more than eight inches above the ground and lashed it into left field, scoring Renteria. Burrell went to third on the play and scored on Huff's single, a grounder that second baseman Chase Utley dove for but only deflected.

Hamels marveled at Ross' bat control.

"I don't know too many guys who can lift that up over a third baseman," Hamels said. "Most guys normally hit it into the ground."

Ross has five go-ahead RBIs this postseason, becoming the first player to reach that total since Houston's Morgan Ensberg and Jermaine Dye of the White Sox did so in 2005.

"For the most part, it's about confidence, going up there and knowing you're going to get the job done or do something to help your team," Ross said.

Renteria, who appeared in only 72 regular-season games, endured three trips to the disabled list and is contemplating retirement, avoided dwelling on himself.

"It's hard. It's hard," he said, referring to the adversity he has weathered this year. "But it's not time to think about that. It's time to think about how we can win ballgames."

Rowand echoed that sentiment when asked about coping with losing his starting role to Andres Torres.

"It's a lot easier when we're winning," said Rowand, who started partly to replace the slumping Torres and to give San Francisco a right-handed presence against the left-handed Hamels.

Rowand hit a career-low .230 this year, but looked sharp while drilling Hamels' first pitch into the left-field corner leading off the fifth.

"I was looking for a cutter, and he threw it," Rowand said.

With two outs, Sanchez hit a 1-2 pitch to Utley, who was torn over whether to charge the low, looping liner or play it on a bounce. He chose the latter approach. The ball short-hopped him and caromed toward second base as Rowand, who was running freely with two outs, scored easily. The play was changed to a hit after originally being ruled an error. Either way, it gave the Giants another run.

After Cain departed, having thrown 119 pitches, the Giants showed off their airtight relief pitching. Javier Lopez worked a scoreless eighth before Brian Wilson completed his fourth postseason save by inducing Raul Ibanez's double-play grounder.

Wilson's handiwork ensured that the Giants would bring the series back to Philadelphia, at the very worst. It also silenced the many skeptics who believed that the Phillies would easily vanquish the Giants.

"You have to take the team that has more wins in postseason," Wilson said, accepting Philadelphia's status as the series favorite. "But you can't count the Giants out because we keep winning and winning and pulling things off. I like our chances."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.