World Series champions edge closer to defending their crown.
World Series champions St. Louis Cardinals thrashed San Francisco Giants 8-3 on Thursday, meaning they now need just one more win to reach Major League Baseball’s season deciding showcase event.
The victory gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead over the Giants in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, with a chance to wrap up the set at home on Friday.
Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright kept Giants batters at bay over seven strong innings.
Wainwright, who was roughed up for six runs in just 2 1/3 innings in game five of the division series against Washington, redeemed himself, giving up four hits and one run with five strikeouts before departing.
“A little part of me wanted to really prove it to myself that I could go out there and pitch great when we need me to,” Wainwright said.
“I was very confident in my ability and my stuff, I just needed to trust it and go out there and make pitches and tonight I was able to execute.”
The Cardinals earned the victory without their hottest hitter. Carlos Beltran sat out, still nursing a sore left knee that he strained in game three.
Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Yadier Molina had two RBIs apiece to pace a flood of 12 hits by a St. Louis team that had batted just .198 through the first three games of the series.
Allen Craig and Pete Kozma each drove in a run.
Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum struggled in his first start of the post-season — after coming out of the bullpen in prior games. He yielded four runs on six hits with three walks in 4 2/3 innings.
San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval belted a two-run homer in the ninth and Hunter Pence had a solo homer, but the Giants have lost back-to-back road games for the first time since July.
The Giants will give the ball to left-hander Barry Zito as they try stay alive on Friday, with Lance Lynn starting for the Cardinals.
“You don’t win as many games as he’s won this year unless you are throwing the ball well and he’s earned this,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Zito. “We have all the confidence in Barry.”
Lincecum, who had allowed only one earned run in 8 1/3 innings in three relief appearances in this post-season, was in trouble early.
Jay led off the first inning with a line drive to center field before before Lincecum walked Matt Carpenter.
Holliday then laced a single back up the middle to score Jay from second and put runners on the corners for Craig, whose sacrifice fly scored Carpenter.
The Giants cut the lead in the second on Pence’s two-out homer into the left-field seats.
San Francisco threatened again in the third after Angel Pagan’s triple, but Wainwright induced Marco Scutaro to ground out to leave the tying run stranded at third base.
In the fifth, Carpenter doubled and came home on Holliday’s single to center field. Holliday advanced on the throw to the plate and scored on Molina’s single, giving St. Louis a 4-1 lead and ending Lincecum’s night.
Jay’s two-run double off Jose Mijares in the sixth provided a 6-1 cushion and the Cardinals added two more runs in the next frame.
“It’s nice to see when guys pick each other up, take advantage of those opportunities we had,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny remarked. “We had some big hits today… it was nice to see.”
Sandoval’s blast off Cardinals reliever Fernando Salas narrowed the gap in the top of the ninth, but Salas retired the next two batters to secure the win.