Programming note: For comprehensive Giants-Cardinals NLCS coverage, watch “October Quest” today at 12 p.m. and immediately following the game on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants had their spirits lifted before the first pitch was thrown Tuesday afternoon.
Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who was hospitalized for several weeks with an infection in his legs, was at the ballpark to watch Game 3 of the NLCS.
“It feels great be back at AT&T Park for today’s NLCS game,” McCovey, 76, said in a statement. “I have been following every pitch of this postseason and am excited to be here with the fans to welcome the team back from St. Louis. I also want thank everyone for the outpouring of well wishes and support during my recovery. Your notes, cards and messages have been the best medicine anyone could ask for.”
Barry Bonds also is in attendance for Game 3.
As expected, A.J. Pierzynski replaced catcher Yadier Molina in the Cardinals’ lineup. Molina told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he would get a cortisome shot in his strained left oblique.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny continued to leave open the possibility that Molina could play late-inning defense, but that might have been more posturing than anything else. The only reason Molina is still on the active roster is because replacing him would render him ineligible for the World Series, should the Cardinals advance.
[RELATED: NLCS Game 3 lineups: Pierzynski catching]
Pierzynski, who joked that he looked forward to a warm reception in San Frnacisco, was booed loudly in pregame introductions.
The Giants made one minor lineup change for Game 3, moving shortstop Brandon Crawford down a spot from seventh to eighth, behind left fielder Travis Ishikawa.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said it would be easier to double-switch with Ishikawa, who would be more likely to be lifted for a right-handed pinch hitter in the later innings.
Crawford has struggled ever since Game 1 of the NLDS in Washington, though. He’s in a 2-for-20 stretch and left scads of runners on base at Busch Stadium.
Crawford had hit eighth for most of the season but Bochy moved him up in the postseason because the shortstop hit .365/.388/.541 in September. The move worked perfectly when Crawford hit a grand slam in the wild card victory at Pittsburgh; the Giants have hit just one home run in six games since then, Brandon Belt’s shot in the 18th inning of Game 2 at Washington.