Big League Stew

NLCS Game 1: Cardinals knock Madison Bumgarner out early, hold on for 6-4 win over Giants

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

(AP)

Score and situation: The St. Louis Cardinals came out swinging in Sunday night's NLCS opener — sending Madison Bumgarner to the showers in the fourth inning — and then rode their bullpen to a 6-4 win over the San Francisco Giants.

Leading lads: NLDS heroes Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma were back wreaking havoc at the bottom of the Cardinals' order. In the fourth inning, the unheralded pair ignited a four-run rally with back-to-back doubles. Postseason Superman Carlos Beltran then punctuated that rally with a two-run blast.

It was also a productive night for David Freese, who got St. Louis on the board with a two-run homer in the second. The Cardinals bullpen also played an integral role in the win, holding San Francisco to two singles over the final 5 1/3 innings. In particular, Edward Mujica was dominant in striking out the side in the seventh. He was awarded the victory

Head hangers: Madison Bumgarner failed to bounce back from his dreadful NLDS outing against the Cincinnati Reds. In fact, he took a step back on Sunday night, allowing six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. His postseason ERA is 11.25.

Key play: Even though Carlos Beltran's home run extended the Cardinals lead to a seemingly comfortable 6-0, I immediately viewed it as a potentially huge play in the game. At 4-0, it already felt like it would be a difficult road for the Giants to come all the way back. At 6-0, it felt like it would take something special. And that proved to be the case. Even though the Giants erupted for four of their own in the fourth, they never could get over the hump created by Beltran's big fly.

Interesting stat: With his home run on Sunday, David Freese has now driven in 25 runs through his first 25 postseason games. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the only player with more RBIs through his first 25 postseason games is Lou Gehrig with 32.

What they'll be talking about: Before Game 1 there was a lot of talk about whether or not Tim Lincecum would start Game 4 in place of Barry Zito. Perhaps that discussion will change to Tim Lincecum — who was excellent again in relief on Sunday — potentially starting Game 5 in place of Madison Bumgarmer, who is really struggling to find himself in October.  Bruce Bochy definitely has some thinking to do.

What's next: The series will continue on Monday night at 8:07 ET on Fox. The Giants will have quite the task on their hands as they attempt to even the series against a postseason giant named Chris Carpenter. They'll need a quality outing from their own starter, Ryan Vogelsong, and they'll need to maximize their scoring opportunities against the Cardinals' ace.

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