The St. Louis Cardinals showed another way to win Sunday night in San Francisco. Instead of a dramatic comeback, they used a collection of six relievers to defeat the Giants 6-4 to take Game 1 of the NLCS. Staked to a 6-0 lead, Lance Lynn did not make it out of the fourth inning, but the Giants did not score after Brandon Crawford's RBI double.
Scoring came from the long ball, as David Freese and Carlos Beltran smashed two-run home runs. A two-run double by Pete Kozma provided the other runs in the fourth inning. One by one, St. Louis' core of relievers kept the Giants at bay over the last five-and-one-third innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out four.
More encouraging was the manner with which the Cardinals continued to rough up Madison Bumgarner. The lanky lefty had entered with an 0-2 record and a 4.73 ERA against St. Louis and those struggles continued.
By contrast, the Cardinals face Ryan Vogelsong in Game 2. Vogelsong pitched seven shutout innings on August 8th in a 15-0 Giants drubbing of St. Louis. Having salvaged at least a split, the Cardinals send big-game pitcher Chris Carpenter out to try to grab a commanding 2-0 series lead.
In a previous article I wrote, I laid out five keys to St. Louis' winning the series. One of them was a quality start from Lance Lynn. Well, how about four of five?
My number four key was getting more production from Yadier Molina. He went 1-4 with a run scored. Number three was middle relief. They could not have performed much better, going four-and-one-third scoreless innings and setting up Jason Motte with the same lead they inherited in the fourth inning.
The second key was keeping the Giants role players quiet. For me that is the quartet of Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. The four combined to go 5-18 with two RBIs and two runs scored. That's an advantage for San Francisco.
Number one was Carlos Beltran continuing to be the huge playoff performer he has been in his career. Mission accomplished. His two-run home run proved to be the difference in the game. The final salvo gave the Cardinals the win. Has the tone been set? Probably not. But the champions made another statement. It will be on the Giants now to respond.