Cards rough up Giants, one victory from Series


ST. LOUIS — One more win and another bunch of wild-card Cardinals get their chance to repeat.

Adam Wainwright threw seven innings of four-hit ball and St. Louis pounded Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants in an 8-3 rout Thursday night that gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead in the NL Championship Series.

Lincecum, a former Liberty High School and University of Washington standout, was a bust in his first postseason start since the World Series clincher over Texas in 2010, giving up four runs in 4-2/3 innings.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner with the quirky delivery earned a shot based on nearly spotless relief work earlier in the postseason but reverted to regular-season form, when he was 10-15 with a 5.18 earned-run average, worst among qualifying starters in the National League.

The defending World Series-champion Cardinals took advantage of his poor start, and can wrap up their second straight pennant as a wild card with a victory at home tonight in Game 5. Lance Lynn faces Giants lefty Barry Zito, and a Cardinals win would set up a 2006 World Series rematch with Detroit.

Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Yadier Molina each had two runs batted in to lead a 12-hit outburst by a team that batted just .198 through the first three games against San Francisco.

“They had their backs against the wall against the Reds and won three in a row, so we’ve still got our work cut out for us and this series is by no means over,” Holliday said.

Just 12 pitches in, the Cardinals had two hits and the lead, and Lincecum got a visit from pitching coach Dave Righetti. Jay opened the first with a single, Matt Carpenter walked on four pitches and Holliday singled up the middle for the lead. Allen Craig tacked on a sacrifice fly.

“I’ve just been working on my swing and I felt more comfortable tonight,” Holliday said. “I was able to get some pitches to hit and hit them hard and good results — that always helps the confidence.”

Wainwright, a glorified cheerleader while rehabbing from elbow-reconstruction during the Cardinals’ improbable title run last year, bounced back from a poor outing in Game 5 of the NL Division Series against Washington, striking out five for his first postseason victory as a starter. The lone damage against him came on Hunter Pence’s first homer and RBI of the postseason, a second-inning clout estimated at 451 feet that soared over the visitors’ bullpen into the left-center bleachers to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 2-1.

Lincecum had retired eight in a row before running into trouble in the fifth. Another Holliday single scored Carpenter, then Molina’s two-out RBI single made it 4-1 and chased Lincecum.

Jay’s two-run double in the sixth extended the lead to 6-1. Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run homer in the ninth, but Fernando Salas retired the next two batters to put the NL West champs on the brink of elimination.


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