Cardinals beat Giants 6-4 in NLCS opener

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Cardinals beat Giants 6-4 in NLCS opener

SAN FRANCISCO - Carlos Beltran hit his 14th career postseason homer and David Freese also went deep as the St. Louis Cardinals took a 6-4 lead over the San Francisco Giants after six innings of the NL championship series opener on Sunday night.

Two nights after rallying from a 6-0 deficit to win the decisive Game 5 of the division series against Washington, the Cardinals found themselves trying to hold onto that same lead.

Freese hit a two-run homer in the second and Beltran followed with one in the fourth as the Cardinals knocked out Madison Bumgarner with six runs in 3 2-3 innings.

But Lance Lynn struggled to hold onto that lead in his first postseason start after 10 career relief appearances. Lynn, an 18-game winner in the regular season, moved into the rotation to take the place of Jaime Garcia, who was taken off division series roster with an injured left shoulder.

After starting the game with three hitless innings, Lynn ran into trouble with two outs and a runner on first in the fourth. Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt followed with singles to drive in San Francisco's first run. They both scored on Gregor Blanco's triple. Brandon Crawford followed with an RBI double to make it 6-4 and Lynn left after walking pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff.

Joe Kelly got out of the jam when second baseman Daniel Descalso made a diving stop of Angel Pagan's grounder up the middle.

This marked the first time since 1958 that the two most recent World Series champions met in the postseason. That year, the New York Yankees avenged a loss in 1957 to beat the Milwaukee Braves for the title. The Cardinals were involved the only other two times that happened, losing to the Yankees in the 1943 and 28 World Series.

Bumgarner breezed through a perfect first inning but ran into trouble in the second when Yadier 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.

That gave Freese 25 career RBIs in the postseason - tied with Molina for third most ever for the Cardinals. Only Albert Pujols (52) and Jim Edmonds (41) have more.

Bumgarner then couldn't make it out of the fourth. Descalso doubled and scored on Pete Kozma's double. Jon Jay added a two-out RBI single and Beltran ended Bumgarner's night with the homer.

George Kontos got out of the fourth and two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum pitched two hitless innings as he once again excelled in his new role out of the bullpen.

Giants fans didn't know if they would be back at the ballpark this year after watching their team fall behind 2-0 in their first-round series to Cincinnati when Bumgarner lost to the Reds exactly a week ago. But San Francisco made it to the NLCS by becoming the first team ever to win three straight road games after falling behind 2-0 in a best-of-five series.

The Cardinals may have had an even more improbably comeback to get back to the NLCS. St. Louis overcame a 6-0 deficit in Game 5 of the division series to Washington - the largest ever in a winner-take-all postseason game, according to STATS LLC. The Cardinals trailed 7-5 heading into the ninth inning before scoring four runs to keep their repeat hopes alive.

Both teams kept the same roster they ended with last round. The only change was at first-base coach for the Giants, where assistant batting coach Joe Lefebvre took over after Roberto Kelly was sidelined with a concussion after being hit in the head by a ball in batting practice Saturday.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Lowe: Wouldn't be shocked if C's move Bradley

Lowe: Wouldn't be shocked if C's move Bradley

Zach Lowe’s most recent podcast is worth a listen, as it features plenty of talk about what the Celtics may or may not due ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. 

Lowe brought up the possibility of the Celtics top-1 or top-2-protecting Brooklyn’s first-round pick and including it in a deal for Butler. He surmises that the inclusion of the Brooklyn pick -- protected or not -- might not come until the final minutes. 

“Look, if Butler gets traded or if Paul George gets traded, that’s when it’s going to happen,” Marc Stein responded. “It’s going to happen in the last five to 10 minutes, so Boston has to make a decision, and let's see if they’re doing the math that they’ve had these assets for a while and it is time to do something bold and the time is now. Really, I think Boston will do it. The question is what will Chicago or Indiana do? And those are two hard reads.” 

Stein spoke to the Celtics’ lack of activity at certain points, but he said that if the C’s do fail to come away with a star player Thursday, it won’t be for lack of aggressiveness. 

MORE TRADE TALK

“I think the Celtics are taking criticism for waiting, and they’ve had all these assets they haven’t moved yet, but I think the record shows that Danny Ainge in general, in total, is very aggressive, not afraid to roll the dice, not afraid to make the aggressive move,” Stein said. “So I have less doubt about Boston saying, ‘Let’s just do it.’ I have far more questions about what Chicago and/or Indiana would do.” 

Lowe said that he imagines the Bulls would “think about” trading the C's Butler if Boston threw in the Nets’ pick unprotected, but added that Chicago would demand to also take two players out of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown. 

“I think that will be the offer and they’ll get there and Chicago will either have a moment where they say, ‘We walk away or we’ll do it.’ And Boston’s not going to throw in the other Nets pick,” Lowe said. “That’s just not going to happen.”

Rating the aforementioned foursome in terms of trade value, Lowe said that Crowder is the best piece because of his “ridiculously good” contract, followed by Brown, Smart and Bradley. 

Lowe added that he considers Bradley one of the “sneaky interesting pieces at this trade deadline” because his contract is up after next season, which is the same time that Isaiah Thomas’ contract expires. Lowe says that given the uncertainty of his future in Boston, he wouldn’t be overly surprised if Bradley is moved at the deadline. 

Report: Ainge wouldn't trade Nets pick for Butler, but would for George

Report: Ainge wouldn't trade Nets pick for Butler, but would for George

Will the Celtics part with the right to Brooklyn’s 2017 first-round pick in order to get a star before Thursday’s trade deadline? 

MORE TRADE TALK

Citing a pair of NBA executives, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News wrote this week that Danny Ainge’s willingness to trade the pick should be in doubt.

Sola named Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Paul George as potential targets, adding that the C’s might include the latter.   

Wrote Isola: 

Two executives doubt that Ainge, who historically plays it close to the vest, would give up the Nets pick in a deal for Butler. However, Ainge might consider it in a trade for George, the Pacers-free agent-to-be who has expressed doubts over re-signing with the Pacers.

‘With Danny, no one ever knows what he might do,' said the executive. ‘He's one of the best. If he thinks he can make a run at the Cavs this season, considering all the injuries Cleveland has had, I can see him making a move.

‘Everyone is talking about Butler to Boston but Danny and Larry Bird go way back. Paul George could be the sleeper.’

This season, the 26-year-old George is averaging 22.3 points 6.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game.