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Big League Stew

Giants might lower struggling Hunter Pence in Game 4 lineup

Big League Stew

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ST. LOUIS — Rousing speeches and remarkably coiffed beards aside, Hunter Pence hasn't helped the San Francisco Giants all that much this postseason. Pence is 5 for 31 — for an all-singles batting average of .161 — with one walk, no runs scored and zero RBIs. In Game 3 of the NLCS on Wednesday night, Pence went 0 for 4 and personally stranded five runners in a frustrating 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

He's not the only one struggling once runners reach base. In all, the Giants stranded 11 after out-hitting the Cardinals 9-6 and drawing five walks against right-hander Kyle Lohse and the St. Louis bullpen. But after a reporter singled out the No. 5 hitter, manager Bruce Bochy wouldn't dismiss, out of hand, lowering him in the batting order for Game 4 on Thursday night. No one's going to give Pence a speech, but moving him down in the order might do something to take a bit of pressure off him against right-hander Adam Wainwright.

"We might talk about it," Bochy said before hedging. "He's a guy we want up there with men on base. ... He has a knack for knocking in runs."

Pence said, as quoted by MLB.com, said he expects to do better:

"They got me this time, but I look forward to the challenge of next time."

Bochy might find it simpler to tweak the lineup in Game 4 because Tim Lincecum is scheduled to be the starting pitcher. Buster Posey usually moves to first base and Hector Sanchez catches in those games. Whatever Bochy does, and whatever the Giants do, it had better work for their sake. Six of the past seven winners of NLCS Game 3 have gone on to win the series. The Giants certainly don't want to get down 3-1, even if they still have two more hypothetical games at AT&T Park.

If the Giants keep getting runners on base, Posey says Pence will come through.

"Anytime he comes up with runners in scoring position, I think he's going to get the job done," Posey said.

So, Pence still inspires confidence. But now it has to be more than talk.

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