SAN FRANCISCO -- Out of shape and out of sync, Pablo Sandoval struggled through the playoffs in 2010.
This time? Sandoval batted .310 with six RBIs over the seven-game National League Championship Series. And by driving in a run in five consecutive postseason games, Sandoval tied the franchise record Barry Bonds set in 2002.
More important to manager Bruce Bochy, his third baseman is starting to return to the form that made him a threat in the Giants lineup.
"We need him,'' Bochy said. "We had a little more coverage in 2010 in terms of offense. This year he's needed -- and he's delivered for us."
Sandoval was just 3 for 17 during the Giants' 2010 run to the title. Now, at age 26, Sandoval seems better equipped, mentally and physically, to handle the October grind.
"He's in a little better shape right now,'' Bochy said. "His confidence was down. I think he was lost at the plate, and defensively. A lot was said about it being because of his weight And I do think that was part of it."
Sandoval went 1 for 4 with a double in Game 7 on Monday night. He also had a run-scoring groundout in the first inning to give the Giants their first run.
"He still has a lot of fun, but I think he's a bit more serious than what he was before,'' Bochy said. "I think he's grown as a person and a player."
Matt Carpenter, who was 5 for 6 in his career against Cain including a two-run home run in Game 2, was out of the starting lineup. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said before the game that he wanted to stick with his regulars, regardless of the opposing starting pitcher.
"We've done this all season,'' he explained. "(Carpenter) had been a great fill for whatever we need. But you started looking at playing him in the outfield corners and you've got Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran.
"In the infield, it's Allen Craig and David Freese. Those are guys that have all been valuable parts of our lineup."
It was a nice closing blow for Belt, who started the series miserably but wound up hitting .304 for the series (7 for 23) with six runs scored.
"It felt great," Belt said. "They'd been pounding me in the whole series and kind of getting the best of me. It was nice to finally get the head out once and hit the ball hard."
"I knew the ball was in the infield, and I knew it was going to get caught," he said. "It was strange looking up and having rain hitting my face. I'm from the desert, so I don't get too much rain. Being out there was a little different for me, but all in all, to get that last out, I was very proud and very happy that they asked me to get it. It's an unreal feeling right now."
Staff writer Alex Pavlovic contributed to this report.