The Cardinals are on the brink of the WS

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The Cardinals are on the brink of the WS

From Comcast SportsNetST. LOUIS (AP) -- The St. Louis Cardinals are oh so close. They know better than to start celebrating yet.To a man, the defending World Series champions kept their latest victory in perspective Thursday night. Before cashing in another wild-card run to a second straight pennant, they've still got to beat the San Francisco Giants one more time."We're not taking the last game to get into the World Series for granted," Matt Holliday said after an 8-3 win put St. Louis up 3-1 in the best-of-seven NL championship series with a chance to wrap it up at home. "The Giants have proven they're a great team and they had their backs to the wall against the Reds."Seated next to Holliday on the podium, Adam Wainwright chimed in: "Well said."The Giants won three straight to eliminate Cincinnati in the division series. Now they have to do it again against a team that appears to have everything working."They do have something, there's no getting around that," San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's not over. We've been in this position. We know it's an uphill battle, but we've been here before."The Giants are in a hole after Wainwright threw seven innings of four-hit ball and St. Louis' offense roughed up Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco bullpen."This is where we are and what we've got to deal with," Hunter Pence said. "The last series we were down in a similar situation, but this is a new series."The Cardinals can close it out at home Friday night in Game 5. Lance Lynn faces Giants lefty Barry Zito, and a St. Louis win would set up a 2006 World Series rematch with Detroit.Plus, the Cardinals could have Carlos Beltran back in the lineup. Beltran missed virtually all of Games 3 and 4 with a left knee strain but is optimistic about playing in Game 5 after doing some jogging and hitting indoors Thursday."Right now, the plan is to come in tomorrow and do what I have to do in order to be in the lineup," said Beltran, who is batting .375 in the postseason with three homers and six RBIs. "Today was a better day for me, better than yesterday."Tomorrow is the day I need to go for it."Holliday, Jon Jay and Yadier Molina had two RBIs apiece to lead a 12-hit outburst by a team that batted just .198 through the first three games of the series.Lincecum was a bust in his first postseason start since the 2010 World Series clincher over Texas, giving up four runs in 4 2-3 innings."That second inning was a little bit laborious, but the third and fourth were a little bit better and I thought I was going to carry it further in the game," Lincecum said. "I ran into some bumps in that fifth."The two-time Cy Young Award winner with the quirky delivery earned a shot based on nearly spotless relief work earlier in the postseason but reverted to regular-season form, when he was 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA, worst among qualifying starters in the National League.Wainwright was a glorified cheerleader while rehabbing from reconstructive elbow surgery during the Cardinals' improbable title drive last fall. They earned the wild card on the final day of the season and then upset the favored Phillies, Brewers and Rangers to give manager Tony La Russa a chance to retire on top.Under rookie manager Mike Matheny, the 88-win Cardinals were the final team to qualify this year, too. Once again, they've stepped up their game.Wainwright bounced back from a poor outing in Game 5 of the NL division series against Washington, striking out five and walking none for his first postseason victory as a starter."It was a big motivator," he said. "I know that I'm good enough to pitch in the postseason, to carry this team deep into the game, give them a quality game, a quality outing. Last time I didn't do it, but I knew tonight if I just believed in myself and went out there and executed pitches I would be in good shape."The lone damage against Wainwright came on Pence's first homer and RBI of the postseason, a second-inning clout estimated at 451 feet that soared over the visitor's bullpen into the left-center bleachers to cut the Cardinals' lead to 2-1.Now, the 14-game winner can just about taste his first World Series as an active player since striking out Brandon Inge as the stand-in closer for injured Jason Isringhausen in the 2006 clincher over the Tigers."This whole experience is so special as it is," Wainwright said. "But to get back to that World Series is always the way to go."Holliday wasn't surprised by Wainwright's strong performance."You expect Adam to pitch well and pitch like an ace, and he did," Holliday said. "His curveball was really good. He located his fastball. No surprise. We all expect Adam to pitch the way he pitched tonight, but sometimes things like the Washington game happen. But he's tough as nails. We knew he'd pitch well."Just 12 pitches in, the Cardinals had two hits and the lead, and Lincecum got a visit from pitching coach Dave Righetti. Jay opened the first with a single, Matt Carpenter walked on four pitches and Holliday singled up the middle for the lead. Allen Craig tacked on a sacrifice fly.Lincecum escaped trouble in the second after issuing two more walks, one of them on five pitches to Wainwright. The Cardinals missed a chance to add on after Pete Kozma reached on third baseman Pablo Sandoval's fielding error to open the inning when he was thrown out trying to steal.Lincecum had retired eight in a row before running into trouble in the fifth.Carpenter doubled off the top of the wall in right-center with one out. He held up until Holliday's single fell in front of fast-charging center fielder Angel Pagan, but third base coach Jose Oquendo aggressively waved Carpenter home.The relay from shortstop Brandon Crawford was in time, but it short-hopped catcher Hector Sanchez and Carpenter scored on a headfirst slide to make it 3-1. Molina's two-out RBI single made it 4-1 and was the knockout blow for Lincecum."He gave us all he had out there," Bochy said. "That was his last inning and he was close to getting out of that inning. He made a great effort on that ball and good throw. We had him at home plate and it's still 2-1. That's a big play in the game."Pence, who called himself "the goat" of Game 3 after stranding seven runners, hit the second-longest home run by an opposing player at 7-year-old Busch Stadium with a drive that sailed over the visitor's bullpen into the bleachers in left-center.Holliday's RBI single was the first RBI by a Cardinals starter since Beltran's two-run homer in the fourth inning of Game 1. Holliday entered 2 for 12 in the NLCS with no RBIs.Sandoval hit a two-run homer in the ninth, but the NL West champs are on the brink of elimination."We have all the confidence in Barry," Bochy said. "We do need to get the bats going. They've been shutting us down."NOTES:Cardinals Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Ozzie Smith made pregame appearances. The 91-year-old Musial toured the warning track in a golf cart while waving to fans and Smith threw out the first pitch. Smith's son, Nikko, a former American Idol finalist, sang the national anthem. ... With Beltran out, Matheny changed the lineup for the first time in the postseason. ... According to STATS LLC, the Giants have faced a 2-1 series deficit eight times in franchise history. They have lost Game 4 each time. ... Wainwright has a 2.48 ERA in 13 postseason appearances, four of them starts.

Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

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Carlo 'arguably the best' defenseman for Bruins in preseason opener

BOSTON – On a night when many of Boston’s young players stepped up nicely, perhaps none did more so than 19-year-old defenseman Brandon Carlo. The youngster was in a top pair role with John-Michael Liles against a decent Columbus Blue Jackets lineup that included Sam Gagner, Alexander Wennberg, Seth Jones, Brandon Saad and Sonny Milano, and had almost no miscues in his 20:16 of ice time.

Better than that, Carlo notched an assist on the game-tying score in the third period when his right point shot made it through traffic for Danton Heinen to redirect it past Curtis McElhinney from the slot. That left Carlo with an assist, a plus-1 rating and three shots on net in 20:16 of ice time to go along with some heavy battling around the net whenever Blue Jackets players tried to get too close.

“Arguably our best D, if not our best D. [He showed] real good decision-making, and his gaps are good. I can really only think of one time in the third period he kind of threw a puck away in the middle of a change, and ended up on his wrong side,” said Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy. “It wasn’t a bad turnover, but it was just one that he could have made a little bit of a better decision.

“He didn’t handle the puck much in the game, that’s pretty good. He jumped up the ice, got his shot through when it was there, matched up well with whoever he was put out there [against], pushed back in front of our net. [There were] a lot of good things.”

It’s a big training camp for Carlo, who is more than likely earmarked for Providence unless he can utilize a stellar training camp performance to push over one of the seven veteran Bruins D-men with NHL contracts. That means potentially displacing Joe Morrow as the seventh defensemen on the roster, or forcing the Bruins to possibly deal Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller if the Bruins feel he is ready for the day-to-day NHL grind.

The preseason opener was a good start that the 2015 second round pick was excited about, but things will certainly get more challenging for Carlo as the Bruins get deeper into this training camp.

“I just want to keep the same mentality, same energy. Show a little bit more physicality. I felt like I did that, but definitely could close a little quicker in a few instances overall. I just want to keep building on every game,” said Carlo. “There are some very strong guys on the puck in this league and throughout this game they had those guys out there definitely. Overall, you just have to compete just as hard as them.

“You’re dealing with NHL guys out there. [The Blue Jackets] had some pretty good guys in their lineup tonight and everyone is competing for jobs on both sides…so the speed was phenomenal. I loved it.”

The Bruins loved what they saw of Carlo in a pretty big opportunity right out of the gate this preseason, and now the teenager has set the bar if he wants to keep pushing with a hockey club that needs to upgrade their defense with strong, young players. 

Talking Points: Young Bruins 'took advantage' of opportunities

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Talking Points: Young Bruins 'took advantage' of opportunities

GOLD STAR: Danton Heinen got off to a slow start in his first NHL preseason game, but was operating at full efficiency when he redirected a Brandon Carlo point shot early in the third period for the game-tying goal that eventually pushed the game into the shootout. Heinen finished second on the B’s with 22:10 of ice time, had four shot attempts and blocked a shot along with the goal, and had another power play chance robbed on the doorstep with a sweeping glove save from Curtis McElhinny. It’s clear from the large amount of ice time that the Bruins want to get a good look at Heinen, and that he’s got a solid chance at an NHL job based on his added development in a big time Denver college program for the last couple of seasons.

BLACK EYE: Peter Mueller wasn’t bad, but zero shots on net along with a penalty in 13:49 of ice time isn’t the kind of performance that’s going to force you to notice him. The Bruins coaching staff then put him out as the final shooter in the shootout with another chance to make a play, and the former Coyotes star forward couldn’t do anything with it before the Columbus game-winner. He clearly has skill, good size and looks like he can make things happen with the puck on his stick, but Mueller needs to make more plays leading to tangible results if he wants to earn a roster spot with so many talented young wingers around him. Both Heinen and Jake DeBrusk cracked the score sheet tonight, and Mueller did not.

HONORABLE MENTION:  Give Jimmy Hayes credit, he showed up and played well in what he hopes is going to be a giant rebound season with the Bruins. He scored the game’s first goal on a great give-and-go with Jake DeBrusk, and he was active and strong paying the price in front of the net while engaged in battles that left him with a giant fat lip after the game was over. It was from a Dalton Prout shot at the end of the second period, and it was Hayes paying the price in a game that really doesn’t matter to a veteran player like him. That’s a good sign if he’s willing to keep doing it, as was his decision to stick up for his smaller teammates when big Blue Jackets D-man Oleg Yevenko started pushing people around in the second period. Hayes finished with the goal, four shots on net and put in an honest night’s work for a team that needs it from him on a nightly basis.

TURNING POINT: For the Bruins it was a 5-on-3 at the end of the second period that didn’t get them a goal, but pulled the momentum of the game in their direction while getting Danton Heinen and Seth Griffith into the flow of things. Both players were robbed on the doorstep by diving saves from Curtis McElhinney, but bolstered their determination to make something happen in the third period down a goal. Only a few minutes of ice time later, Heinen was redirecting a Brandon Carlo shot past the Columbus goaltender for the game-tying goal and the B’s were on equal footing with the Blue Jackets. The power play was 0-for-5 on the night, but most of their PP possessions were actually decent considering how little they’ve practiced it this early in camp.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 – the number of shot attempts for Jakub Zboril, who was more good than bad for the Bruins in the first preseason game for the Black and Gold. He set up the first initial transition pass that led to Jimmy Hayes’ goal, and was active while aggressively playing the position and showing off his skills that were very clearly worthy of a first round pick.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “There were a lot of young players in the lineup. I won’t go through all of them, but I thought quite a few of them acquitted themselves quite well. They were given opportunities to do that and some of them certainly took advantage of that.” – Bruins assistant coach Bruce Cassidy after the 3-2 shootout loss.