2012 NLCS: No Beltran, No Problem as Cardinals Move to Brink of World Series

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2012 NLCS: No Beltran, No Problem as Cardinals Move to Brink of World Series
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Holliday season was early for St. Louis Thursday night

As I wrote last night, there was a quartet of players that needed to step up for St. Louis to win game four.

They did so emphatically, propelling the Cards to a dominant 8-3 victory that moved them one game from their second straight National League title. 

The intriguing starting pitching matchup proved to be a mismatch, as Adam Wainwright was fantastic for St. Louis. In contrast, Tim Lincecum struggled in two key innings and lost, going just 4 2/3 innings and allowing four runs on six hits with three walks. 

For Wainwright, this continued his good success at Busch Stadium. He pitched well enough in Game 1 of the NLDS against Washington to win and was even better tonight. His final line was seven strong innings, allowing just a single run (on Hunter Pence's solo home run) on four hits and five strikeouts. He didn't walk a Giant hitter and deftly got out of his one major threat in the sixth inning.

That was San Francisco's best threat.

With one out, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro both singled to set up Buster Posey as the tying run at the plate. Wainwright got Posey to line out to right fielder Matt Carpenter. Then with two out, Wainwright's nasty curveball induced a harmless ground out from Pablo Sandoval and the Giants never threatened again.

With Carlos Beltran out of the lineup with a knee injury, there were three position players that needed to step up: Jon Jay, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina. Combined, they went 6-14 with six RBI and three runs scored.

In other words, mission accomplished.

Molina's breakout was most encouraging, as he has been scuffling in the postseason. His single in the fifth inning wound up being the difference, as Sandoval's two run home run in the ninth provided the final scoring.

So now, the Cardinals are a game away from their second straight World Series and their fourth appearance since 2004, the most in baseball.

Lance Lynn will look to atone for his uneven Game 1 start in Game 5. He will be opposed by Barry Zito, as the Giants will desperately try to take St. Louis back to the West Coast for Game 6.

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