Behind two timely home runs from David Freese and Carlos Beltran and a big bullpen performance, the St. Louis Cardinals took a 1-0 lead in the 2012 NLCS by taking down the San Francisco Giants 6-4.
The Giants and Cardinals are the last two National League representatives in the World Series, and they aren't going to give an inch to each other to get back in.
After jumping out to an early 6-0 lead, the Cardinals had to fight to the finish before holding on for the 6-4 victory. Both teams put up four-spots in the fourth inning, and it was the second-inning David Freese home run that made the difference at the end of the night.
Both Mike Matheny and Bruce Bochy dug deep into their bag of tricks for this one, each using six or more pitchers in the series opener.
Keep reading for Twitter reaction, player grades and some highlights from the first game of this best-of-seven series to determine the National League's representative in the World Series.
Tweets from the Game
We'll get things started with the Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay, who noted how nice it was to see some traditional uniforms on the mat for this NLCS matchup.
One nice thing about Giants v. Cardinals? The uniforms are perfect. So many sports uniforms are just a disaster. Not these.— Jason Gay (@jasonWSJ) October 15, 2012
Mark Mulder certainly took notice of the Cardinals and their early offensive output, as well as Lance Lynn's performance in the early innings.
Cardinals are ballin right now. Man they look good.And this is the number 5 starter for them. Wow— Mark Mulder (@markmulder20) October 15, 2012
Here's an interesting stat from ESPN analyst Jayson Stark. Excluding the one-game playoff, Carlos Beltran is a prime-time playoff performer.
If you don't count the Wild Card Game, Carlos Beltran has homered at least once in all but one postseason series he's ever played in. #MrOct— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 15, 2012
B.J. Rains of Fox Sports gave us a look at Trevor Rosenthal, who came on in the sixth inning to preserve the St. Louis lead.
Grades for Key Players
Carlos Beltran: A-
Beltran only accounted for one hit, but that one was a huge two-run homer to push the lead to 6-0. It was also the winning hit in the ballgame, as it was a bullpen duel from the fourth inning on. Stark's tweet proved true in the first game of this championship series, and Beltran provided the Pujols- and Berkman-esque spark in the Cardinals' Game 1 win.
Lance Lynn: C-
It was a mixed bag for Lynn, the fifth starter who's pitched a career high in innings during this year's run. Whether it was fatigue or something else, Lynn fell apart in the four-run fourth. And now in his second straight postseason, you can't blame it on the nerves for the 25-year-old Lynn.
Cardinals Bullpen: A+
After Lynn was pulled, six relievers combined for a two-hit, two-walk performance to completely seal the deal for the Cards. Highlighted by Trevor Rosenthal's radar-gun-smashing performance, Jason Motte closed the door following a two-out Angel Pagan single in the ninth.
Giants' 3-4-5: F
Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence went a combined 1-for-10 with two walks at the plate. Although the trio helped spark the four-run fourth that made it a new ballgame, they were unable to get key hits down the stretch in this one. Hunter Pence's deep fly to right in the seventh would have been out in many ballparks, but it stayed in the yard and helped the Cards hold on.
Madison Bumgarner: D
The lefty fell victim to the St. Louis lineup, not being able to get Beltran or David Freese out in what turned out to be key situations of the game. Bumgarner didn't look like the guy who killed the Texas Rangers in the 2012 World Series, but he'll likely have another chance to redeem himself in this series.
Chris Carpenter gets the ball for the Cards, opposing the Giants' Ryan Vogelsong on Monday. San Francisco needs to defend its home field by tying the series up 1-1, or the Cardinals will have a decided advantage when they head back to St. Louis.