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Cardinals beat Giants 8-3 to take 3-1 lead in NLCS

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Cardinals beat Giants 8-3 to take 3-1 lead in NLCS

ST. LOUIS (AP) Adam Wainwright looked like an ace again and some of the St. Louis Cardinals' top hitters rediscovered their strokes.

On the verge of a repeat wild-card title shot, the defending World Series champions have picked a good time to put it all together.

``It's always nice to wake up and understand that if you win, you're moving on, especially when the World Series is at your fingertips,'' third baseman David Freese said after the Cardinals' 8-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of the NLCS Thursday night. ``Tomorrow's going to be fun either way.''

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.

But the Cardinals realize it's not time to celebrate yet.

``We just have to keep our head down,'' manager Mike Matheny said. ``Keep playing the game. Keep doing things right. Stay aggressive, stay within yourself, do your piece, and trust that we can pull together and do what we need to do.''

The Giants are in a big hole after Wainwright threw seven innings of four-hit ball and a 12-hit attack roughed up Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco bullpen Thursday night.

Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina each drove in their first two runs of the series, and leadoff man Jon Jay also had two RBIs.

``In the postseason, the stats don't always look great,'' Holliday said. ``A lot of times the stats, guys feel better about their swings than the stats show. Obviously, this helps with confidence.''

The Giants won three straight to eliminate Cincinnati in the division series. Now they have to do it against a team that appears to have everything working.

``Every day is a new day,'' said Hunter Pence, who hit his first homer of the series. ``The motto is to find a way to win and bring it back to San Francisco.''

The Cardinals could have their top postseason bat back for Game 5. Carlos Beltran missed virtually all of Games 3 and 4 with a left knee strain, but is optimistic about playing 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.''

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.

``Right now, I'm obviously upset at myself,'' Lincecum said. ``I don't want to go out there and put my bullpen in a situation where we have to use them the way we've been using them.''

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 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.

``This season has gone so fast to me, I just can't believe where we are right now,'' Wainwright said. ``When I missed last year, in the offseason I was just like `Can we please do that again next year?'

``As painful as it was not to be able to help last year, I feel like I'm a major contributor this year, and I'm having a lot of fun.''

The lone damage against Wainwright came on Pence's 451-foot homer in the second that cut the Cardinals' lead to 2-1.

Just 12 pitches in, the Cardinals had two hits, a walk 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 had retired eight in a row before getting knocked out in the fifth on a rally that started with Carpenter's double off the top of the wall in right-center with one out. The Giants had a good chance of throwing out Carpenter at the plate on Holliday's single, but shortstop Brandon Crawford's relay short-hopped catcher Hector Sanchez and Carpenter scored on a headfirst slide to make it 3-1.

Molina's RBI single with two outs chased Lincecum.

Pablo 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,'' manager Bruce 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.

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Caps make second blue line addition, acquire Jakub Jerabek from Montreal

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Caps make second blue line addition, acquire Jakub Jerabek from Montreal

The Capitals continued to retool their scuffling blue line on Wednesday, acquiring 26-year-old defenseman Jakub Jerabek from Montreal in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2019.

The move comes a couple of days after GM Brian MacLellan dealt a conditional third-round selection to Chicago for swift skating Michal Kempny.

Both Jerabek and Kempny are left shot, puck-moving defensemen who move well and make crisp outlet passes. Both also hail from the Czech Republic.

RELATED: BRADEN HOLTBY BLAMES HIMSELF FOR TAMPA LOSS

The team sees Jerabek as a No. 5 or 6, I’m told.

On Wednesday, the Caps also officially said goodbye to Taylor Chorney, who was claimed off waivers by Columbus. Chorney will report to the Blue Jackets.

The Caps were off on Wednesday as they made their way Florida for Thursday night’s meeting with the Panthers, so it’s unclear how Coach Barry Trotz intends to deploy his new defensemen.

But it’s probably safe to assume that Kempny will move into a spot within the top four with John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen.

MORE CAPITALS: GET TO KNOW MICHAL KEMPNY

That figures to leave Brooks Orpik and Jerabek on the third pair, while rookies Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey jockey for position as the next man up.

Kempny is expected to make his Caps’ debut on Thursday night.

Is the Caps’ D corps better? Well, that remains to be seen. But it had become clear to MacLellan and Co. in recent weeks that the status quo was not going to cut it. This month, in fact, the team has allowed 39 goals in 10 games. Only the Rangers (40) have allowed more in the same span.

With the trade deadline looming next Monday, the Caps now have roughly $617,000 in cap space, according to www.capfriendly.com, and are at the roster maximum of 23 players. So they would need to make a move in order to add another body.

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NHL Trade Tracker 2018: Latest deadline rumors, deals

NHL Trade Tracker 2018: Latest deadline rumors, deals

The 2018 NHL Trade Deadline is nearly here, marking the final point in the season teams can make major shakeups before preparing for the stretch run and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 2018 NHL Trade Deadline takes place a week earlier than in 2017, and teams have until 3:00 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon to make their final pre-deadline deals. That being said, the trade deadline is not the end of player movement in 2018, but signifies the end of the open trade window.

But with less than w eek left, the trade rumors are swirling, with teams putting out feelers and reaching out to potential trade partners.

The Capitals started the trade deadline period a week early, with a minor trade on Monday and another on Wednesday.

RELATED: TRACKING THE FAVORITES TO WIN NHL AWARDS

2018 NHL TRADE DEADLINE TRACKER:

February 21: TRADE — The Montreal Canadiens trade D Jakub Jerabek to the Washington Capitals for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. (TRADE ANALYSIS)

February 21: RUMOR — The Columbus Blue Jackets have shown interest in acquiring Artem Anisimov from the Chicago Blackhawks, a team attempting a major rebuild toward the end of the 2017-18 season.

February 20: TRADE — The Toronto Maple Leafs trade C Erif Fehr to the San Jose Sharks for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

February 20: RUMOR — The Ottawa Senators are looking to deal D Erik Karlsson and C Bobby Ryan. The Sens have already begun to enter "tank" mode. Moving Karlsson and/or Ryan would make it all but official.

February 20: TRADE — The New York Rangers trade D Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins for D Rob O'Gara and a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

February 19: TRADE — The Chicago Blackhawks trade D Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals for a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. (TRADE ANALYSIS)

February 19: RUMOR — The Anaheim Ducks look to be targeting Vancouver Canucks LW Thomas Vanek, but the Canucks may 'kick tires" on a potential trade if the return isn't right. 

February 19: TRADE — The Detroit Red Wings trade G Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

February 19: RUMOR — The Pittsburgh Penguins are interested in pursuing speedy New York Rangers RW Michael Grabner.

February 17: RUMOR — The Ottawa Senators' fire sale continues to heat up. The St. Louis Blues are reportedly interested in Senators RW Mike Hoffman and C Derick Brassard.

February 15: TRADE — Toronto Maple Leafs trade RW Nikita Soshnikov to the St. Louis Blues for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

February 15: TRADE — The Chicago Blackhawks trade D Ville Pokka to the Ottawa Senators for LW Chris DiDomenico.

February 13: RUMOR — New York Rangers LW Rick Nash is rumored to be a major trade target for virtually every team within playoff reach. The Nashville Predators have been rumored to be the favorites for the former No. 1 overall draft pick.

February 13: TRADE — The Los Angeles Kings trade RW Marian Gaborik and C Nick Shore to the Ottawa Senators for D Dion Phaneuf and C Nate Thompson.