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Postseason basher Beltran powers to Cards to Game 1 win in S.F

The SportsXchange

SAN FRANCISCO -- Carlos Beltran is used to having success in the postseason. Just don't expect him to know why.

Beltran's 14th home run in 29 career playoff games was the key to the St. Louis Cardinals beating the San Francisco Giants 6-4 in Sunday's Game 1 of the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.

"It's hard for me to explain," said Beltran, whose two-strike shot capped a four-run rally in the fourth inning to give the Cardinals a 6-0 lead. "I don't feel pressure, I don't feel the need to try to do something special. I just relax and try to have fun. If I go out there and play the game the right way, good things happen."

While Beltran sparked the offense, the St. Louis bullpen shared the spotlight thanks to its superb work. Jason Motte, the last of seven Cardinals pitchers, earned the save. St. Louis relievers retired 14 of 15 batters before Angel Pagan reached with a two-out single in the ninth inning.

"That wasn't how we wanted to do this," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "(Starter) Lance Lynn hit a wall, needed some help, and the bullpen came in and did a great job."

Edward Mujica struck out the side in his one inning of work in the seventh, and he was credited with the win. Mitchell Boggs enjoyed a perfect eighth with two popups and a groundout. In the ninth, Motte retired Brandon Crawford on a fly to center, pinch hitter Hector Sanchez on a pop to left and Marco Scutaro on a grounder to first base after Pagan singled to right-center.

"Our guys did a great job of battling back," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Break here or there and it's a different game."

St. Louis scored four times in the fourth to chase Giants starter Madison Bumgarner.

Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma hit consecutive groundball doubles into the right and left field corners, respectively, with one out for the first run. Kozma stole third and scored when Jon Jay touched Bumgarner for a soft single to center with two outs on an 0-2 count.

Bumgarner got two strikes on Beltran, but Cardinals' No. 2 hitter picked on a low fastball and drove it deep into the left field stands.

"He just couldn't get out of that fourth inning," Bochy said of Bumgarner. "With two outs, they got a couple of big hits, one was a flare that fell, and he had two strikes on Beltran and he made a mistake there."

The Giants, held without a hit by Lynn through three, batted around against the right-hander to answer with four runs in the fourth, all coming with two outs.

Brandon Belt's broken-bat single to center scored Scutaro from third. Gregor Blanco tripled to right-center to plate Hunter Pence and Belt. Crawford doubled to right to score Blanco, chasing Lynn. Descalso's diving play up the middle at second led to a force play to strand the tying runs.

"They're a good team, they fight," Beltran said of the team he spent time with late last season. "In the fourth, they came hard, they put together some great at-bats. Lucky for us our bullpen came in, did a good job and shut the door."

San Francisco left two runners on an inning later, too, as St. Louis relievers Joe Kelly and Marc Rzepczynski thwarted the threat.

The Cardinals struck for two runs in the second off Bumgarner, who labored through a 30-pitch frame after setting the visitors down 1-2-3 in the first on 11 pitches (the first seven of which were strikes).

St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina laced a one-out, two-strike single to center. The next batter, David Freese, launched a 3-2 fastball into the left-center-field bleachers to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. Freese's first postseason homer of 2012 was his fourth career long ball in LCS play.

"It's a best-of-seven, and we've show how resilient we can be," Bochy said. "We hate to lose at home, but it happens."

NOTES: Joe Lefebvre served as the Giants' first base coach in place of Roberto Kelly, who suffered a concussion Saturday when he was struck in the back of the head by a Busty Posey sinking line drive during batting practice on the team's off day. Kelly rested at home for Game 1. "I don't see him being out there at least these two games, if not longer," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. ... The winner of Game 1 of the NLCS has advanced to the World Series in 16 of the last 20 years. The 2011 champion Cardinals were one of the four teams to drop an NLCS Game 1 but rally to win the series. ... The Giants and Cardinals are meeting for the third time in LCS history. ... Tony Bennett performed "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch. ... St. Louis' Chris Carpenter is scheduled to oppose San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong in Monday's Game 2.

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