ST. LOUIS -- The stage was bigger and the stakes much higher, but the result was one Matt Cain and the Giants used to know well.

Cain showed up, the offense did not, and the Giants lost. A 3-1 setback Wednesday to the St. Louis Cardinals in a rain-delayed Game 3 put the Giants back a game in the best of seven National League Championship Series.

"He gave us a chance to win," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We had our chances."

Did they ever.

The Giants put multiple runners on base in six of the first seven innings but scored just one run off Kyle Lohse, who gave up seven hits and walked five. The Giants were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base. The game was delayed for three hours and 28 minutes in the seventh inning, leaving the position players with little to do but sit around and think about the first seven innings.

There wasn't much to be happy about.

Lohse walked two in the second but struck out Cain to end the inning. The Giants opened the third with an Angel Pagan single and Marco Scutaro double and took a 1-0 lead when Pablo Sandoval grounded out to short. But after an intentional walk to Buster Posey, Hunter Pence hit into a rally-killing double play.

The Giants left two more runners on base in the fourth, and Pence quieted another threat in the fifth by grounding out with Posey on base. Sandoval had already hit into a double play to wipe out Scutaro's single.

The theme continued in the sixth as the sky began to get dark and a wicked storm approached. Brandon Crawford and Cain hit two-out singles, but Pagan grounded out to short. After one-out singles by Sandoval and Posey in the seventh, Pence struck out swinging and Brandon Belt struck out looking.

"We missed some opportunities," Posey said. "We just weren't able to get that big hit. Cain definitely threw the ball well enough to win."

The Giants didn't just waste endless golden opportunities to score, they wasted Cain's best effort of the postseason. Cain, long accustomed to unsupported quality starts, whiffed on his own opportunity in the third.

Carlos Beltran had exited after one inning with a left knee strain and was replaced by rookie Matt Carpenter, who came up with a runner on in the third. Carpenter was 4 for 4 previously off Cain but fell behind 0-2. When Cain grooved a 2-2 slider, Carpenter crushed it 428 feet into the right field stands.

"It was a slider down and in, and it didn't get in there like it should have," Cain said. "I made a bad pitch and it cost us. With (Beltran) out of the game, yeah, that's something you try to take advantage of.

"I didn't do it."

The homer was the first career postseason extra-base hit for Carpenter, who has six career homers.

"Really, I was just trying not to strike out," Carpenter said.

Pence had the opposite approach in his big moments, saying he tried to do too much. It cost the Giants. The No. 5 hitter was 0 for 4 -- dropping his postseason average to .091 -- and left five runners on base.

"I'm the goat today," Pence said. "I didn't get the job done in big opportunities. I've got to go home and learn from what happened and come back."

Posey, who has walked six times ahead of Pence this postseason, spread the blame around.

"He's definitely not the goat," Posey said. "I know I feel confidence every time he's up there with guys in scoring position. It's never on one guy."

Pence, Posey and the rest lamented their missed opportunities with runners in scoring position on a day that Cain called his best of the postseason. They failed to take advantage of one other break, too.

The Cardinals had scored a run in the seventh and threatened for more when the game was delayed just as Cain was pulled. After the long delay, Javier Lopez entered and quickly got the Giants out of the jam.

The break had served a huge benefit for the Giants, getting Mitchell Boggs -- who struck out the only two Giants he faced -- out of the game before the teams hit the eighth inning. With few appealing options, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny asked closer Jason Motte to get his first career six-out save.

"I was a little surprised he pitched the eighth," Posey said. "That's not easy to do."

The Giants made it a bit easier, going down on just nine pitches in the eighth inning. Motte needed only 10 pitches to get through the ninth, again setting the Giants down in order and preventing Posey from getting a final at-bat.

"Hopefully we don't have to get there," Pagan said of the back of the Cardinals' stellar bullpen. "Hopefully we get runs earlier."

Given every opportunity to do so Wednesday, the Giants couldn't get it done.

For more on the Giants, see Alex Pavlovic's Giants Extra blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/Giants. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/AlexPavlovic.