SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — This time, Carlos Beltran, David Freese and the St. Louis Cardinals took a six-run lead — and held onto it, barely.
Beltran and Freese hit two-run homers and these wild, wild-card Cardinals beat the San Francisco Giants 6-4 on Sunday night in Game 1 of the NL championship series.
The defending World Series champions took an early 6-0 cushion and made it stand up. Only two nights earlier, the Cardinals came back from a 6-0 deficit, using a four-run rally in the ninth inning at Washington in the deciding Game 5 of the division series.
The St. Louis bullpen delivered with 5 1-3 scoreless innings after starter Lance Lynn was chased. Edward Mujica, the fifth St. Louis pitcher, struck out the side in order in the seventh for the win. Jason Motte finished for his second save of the postseason.
The Cardinals gave first-year manager Mike Matheny a win against his former club.
Matheny's crew hardly looked road weary after a cross-country trip. The Giants dropped to 0-3 at home so far during these playoffs, outscored 20-6 at AT&T Park.
Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Monday night. Chris Carpenter pitches for the Cardinals against Ryan Vogelsong.
This is the first time the previous two World Series winners are facing off in the postseason since the 1958 World Series between the Braves and Yankees.
Beltran's fourth-inning drive into the seats in left-center chased San Francisco starter Madison Bumgarner, who has been a far cry from the impressive pitcher he was during the 2010 World Series run.
It was Beltran's 14th career postseason home run and third this October.