Score and situation: The St. Louis Cardinals took command of the NLCS and put themselves one win away from a World Series return with an overpowering 8-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night.
Leading lads: Adam Wainwright bounced back from his awful Game 5 outing against the Washington Nationals with a real gem. The Cardinals right-hander tossed seven strong innings with the only damage coming on Hunter Pence's monster second-inning home run. He also struck out five and earned his first postseason win as a starter.
The offensive attack for St. Louis was balanced and relentless. Game 3 hero Matt Carpenter was in the middle of most of it, reaching three times and scoring twice. Matt Holliday drove in a pair of runs with singles in the first and fifth. Jon Jay also delivered a two-run double off left-handed reliever Jose Mijares to blow the game open.
Head hangers: This was not the return to the rotation Bruce Bochy envisioned for Tim Lincecum. It was far from the worst we've seen from Lincecum this season, but it was even further from the workhorse Lincecum we saw in the 2010 postseason. In fact, the 4 2/3-inning outing was the shortest of his six career postseason starts, while the four earned runs and three walks equaled his previous highs. The only upside for San Francisco is that Lincecum's outing was short enough that he should be available out of the bullpen in Games 6 and 7 should they be necessary.
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Key play: The botched play at the plate in the fifth inning was chaotic and seemed to be the dagger for San Francisco. Center fielder Angel Pagan did a nice job keeping Matt Holliday's frozen rope single in front of him and started the process of what should have been an out at home. Unfortunately, Brandon Crawford's relay throw was in the grass and catcher Hector Sanchez went for the tag before securing the ball, allowing it to trickle away. Carpenter was dead to rights if the play was executed, but as it was he touched home and Holliday moved into scoring position himself setting up another Cardinal run.
Interesting stat: Busch Stadium has not treated Tim Lincecum well lately. Over his last 13 2/3 pitched in downtown St. Louis, he's allowed 11 earned runs.
What they'll be talking about: Was the decision to move Tim Lincecum back into the rotation worth it for Bruce Bochy? Some will say he didn't have much of a choice based on postseason performances from Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito, while others will bring up how well Lincecum had performed in relief role this postseason. There should be a third camp pointing out that it probably doesn't matter at this point against a locked in Cardinals offense.
Bochy's decision to go with Hector Sanchez behind the plate over Buster Posey will also get some ink and airtime. Along with the botched play defensively, Sanchez went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
What's next: The Cardinals will look to punch their ticket to the World Series, while the Giants will try to extend their season and get back at AT&T in Friday's Game 5. Left-hander Barry Zito will be given the task of saving the season for Bochy's squad. Mike Matheny will turn to All-Star Lance Lynn. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 ET.
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