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10/15/2012 12:56 AM EDT
Beltran, Freese hit 2-run HRs, Cards beat Giants
ST LOUIS 6, SAN FRANCISCO 4

By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Baseball Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Ahead by a lot or behind by a bunch, these
St. Louis Cardinals are winning every which way.



Boosted by two-run homers from proven postseason stars Carlos
Beltran and David Freese, and 5 1-3 innings from a steady
bullpen, these wild, wild-card Cardinals beat the San Francisco
Giants 6-4 on Sunday night in Game 1 of the NL championship
series.



The defending World Series champions built an early 6-0 cushion
and held on. Only two nights earlier, the Cardinals came back
from the same deficit, using a four-run rally in the ninth
inning at Washington in the deciding Game 5 of the division
series.



"I'm thinking about the D.C. game," Freese said. "They were up
6-0. We were up 6-0. And that shows that you've got to keep
playing. ... We were fortunate enough that our bullpen came in
and closed the door the rest of the way."



Starter Lance Lynn was done after 3 2-3 innings. Edward Mujica,
the fifth St. Louis pitcher, struck out the side in order in the
seventh for the win. Jason Motte finished for his second save of
the postseason.



The Cardinals gave first-year manager Mike Matheny a win against
his former club.



Matheny's crew hardly looked road weary after a cross-country
trip. The Giants dropped to 0-3 at home so far during these
playoffs, outscored 20-6 at AT&T Park.



Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Monday night. Chris
Carpenter pitches for the Cardinals against Ryan Vogelsong.



This is the first time the previous two World Series winners are
facing off in the postseason since the 1958 World Series between
the Braves and Yankees.



"The way we play the game, we have been in this type of
situation before in the regular season," Beltran said. "These
guys have this mentality of not panicking."



Beltran's fourth-inning drive into the seats in left-center
chased San Francisco starter Madison Bumgarner, who has been a
far cry from the impressive pitcher he was during the 2010 World
Series run.



It was Beltran's 14th career postseason home run and third this
October.



"Right now I'm really enjoying myself," Beltran said. "Right now
I'm seeing the ball well. I feel like I have a good approach at
the plate, I feel like I'm not trying to do too much, and good
things are happening."



Beltran spent the second half of the 2011 season with San
Francisco after a trade from the Mets, but the Giants missed the
playoffs last fall a year after the capturing an improbable
championship. The orange towel-waving sellout crowd of 42,534
let him have it with boos at every opportunity - during pregame
introductions and each time he stepped into the batter's box.



Both teams were well rested a day after a rough night of travel.
The Giants barely beat the Cardinals to the Bay Area early
Saturday after they were delayed three hours on the tarmac in
Cincinnati on Friday night - to refuel and for a mechanical
problem after waiting out the Cardinals-Nationals game to know
where they were headed next.



Matheny stuck with the same winning lineup that he sent out for
Game 5, and some of the same faces came through again.



"They put together some better at-bats than us," Giants center
fielder Angel Pagan said. "They hit some homers and were up 6-0.
That's a pretty good lead in the playoffs. We tried to battle
back. We did our best but it wasn't our night."



Daniel Descalso, who hit a tying, two-out single in Friday's 9-7
win, added two more hits.



Descalso hit a one-out double in the fourth, then rookie Pete
Kozma drove him home with a double of his own. In the ninth
inning Friday, Kozma followed Descalso with a go-ahead, two-run
single.



Descalso did well playing in his native Northern California. He
spends his offseasons in San Francisco's Marina district.



Beltran and Freese each had two strikes when they homered.



"I think that's been very much of a strong suit for us all
season," Matheny said. "And it's a beautiful thing when these
guys trust themselves when they get to two strikes. They can be
a little more selective early in the count and then they're not
going to panic when we do get to two strikes. I give the guys a
lot of credit."



St. Louis 18-game winner Lynn didn't allow a hit until Marco
Scutaro's single to left leading off the fourth. Hunter Pence
singled two outs later and Brandon Belt drove him home with a
single. Gregor Blanco followed with a two-run triple, then
Brandon Crawford hit an RBI double. Pinch hitter Aubrey Huff - a
2010 postseason star now in a diminished role - drew a walk to
cheers of "Aubrey! Aubrey!"



And, just like that, Lynn was done.



"The bullpen did a great job," catcher Yadier Molina said. "We
struck first, and to hold that lead, we won with the bullpen."



Bumgarner and Lynn each lasted only 3 2-3 innings. That made for
a long night in both bullpens.



The pressure is now on for the Giants not to fall behind 2-0 at
home again. They lost the first two games of their division
series here to the Reds last weekend before winning three in a
row at Cincinnati. They went 48-33 at AT&T Park this season.



"We've shown how resilient we can be," manager Bruce Bochy said.
"We hate to lose them at home, but it happens. And we've got to
wash this one off and come out and be ready to go tomorrow."



Bumgarner, a 16-game winner for the NL West champs, lost Game 2
of the division series at home to the Reds exactly a week
earlier.



He pitched a 1-2-3 first on Sunday but ran into trouble in the
second when Molina singled on an 0-2 pitch with one out. Freese
then drove a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-center to give the
Cardinals a 2-0 lead.



Bumgarner needed 30 pitches to get through the second, and now
has an 11.25 ERA in his two postseason starts this year.



Lynn returned to the rotation for the NLCS and his first career
postseason start after making four relief appearances in the
division series. Matheny needed another starter after
left-hander Jaime Garcia injured his left shoulder in Game 2
against the Nationals.



"Right now we feel like everyone's feeding off each other,"
reliever Joe Kelly said. "If one guy does something, you want to
go out and match it and try to keep that momentum going. It
shows the confidence that Mike has in this bullpen. It makes us
want to play better for him. He hands the ball off and he knows
what he's doing."



NOTES: Matheny caught for the Giants in 2005-06. ... Freese's
two RBIs gave him 25 for his postseason career, tied with Molina
for third most on the Cardinals. Albert Pujols is No. 1 with 52
and Jim Edmonds has 41. ... Both teams kept their rosters intact
from the division series. ... The clubs split their season
series 3-all. ... Giants assistant batting coach Joe Lefebvre
took over 1B coaching duties in place of Roberto Kelly, who
sustained a concussion after being hit by a ball off Buster
Posey's bat during batting practice Saturday. ... Matheny
received a nice ovation during pregame introductions. ... More
fans packed the viewing portwalk outside the ballpark beneath
the right-field arcade.

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