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Beltran, Freese hit 2-run HRs, Cards beat Giants

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Beltran, Freese hit 2-run HRs, Cards beat Giants

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The St. Louis Cardinals' unheralded bullpen is making quite a name for itself in October right along with proven postseason stars Carlos Beltran and David Freese.

A group that takes pride in being ready for anything had six relievers combine to deliver 5 1-3 scoreless innings of relief to lead the reigning World Series champions to a 6-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the NL championship series Sunday night.

``We feel like we're an asset. We don't get talked about much, and I guess that's a good thing,'' said right-hander Mitchell Boggs, who pitched the eighth. ``We don't have big name guys. Tonight was a good night for us.''

Beltran and Freese did their part with two-run homers as the Cardinals built an early 6-0 cushion and held on. Only two nights earlier, the Cardinals came back from the same deficit, using a four-run rally in the ninth inning at Washington in the deciding Game 5 of the division series.

``I'm thinking about the D.C. game,'' Freese said. ``They were up 6-0. We were up 6-0. And that shows that you've got to keep playing. ... We were fortunate enough that our bullpen came in and closed the door the rest of the way.''

Starter Lance Lynn was done after 3 2-3 innings. Edward Mujica, the fifth St. Louis pitcher, struck out the side in order in the seventh for the win, then 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.

``Right now I'm really enjoying myself,'' Beltran said. ``Right now I'm seeing the ball well. I feel like I have a good approach at the plate, I feel like I'm not trying to do too much, and good things are happening.''

Beltran spent the second half of the 2011 season with San Francisco after a trade from the Mets, but the Giants missed the playoffs last fall a year after the capturing an improbable championship the previous season. The orange towel-waving sellout crowd of 42,534 booed him at every opportunity - during pregame introductions and each time he stepped into the batter's box.

Both teams were well rested a day after a rough night of travel. The Giants barely beat the Cardinals to the Bay Area early Saturday after they were delayed three hours on the tarmac in Cincinnati on Friday night - to refuel and for a mechanical problem after waiting out the Cardinals-Nationals game to know where they were headed next.

Matheny stuck with the same lineup that he sent out for Game 5, and some of the same faces came through again.

``They put together some better at-bats than us,'' Giants center fielder Angel Pagan said. ``They hit some homers and were up 6-0. That's a pretty good lead in the playoffs. We tried to battle back. We did our best but it wasn't our night.''

Daniel Descalso, who hit a tying, two-out single in Friday's 9-7 win, added two more hits.

Descalso hit a one-out double in the fourth, then rookie Pete Kozma drove him home with a double of his own. In the ninth inning Friday, Kozma followed Descalso with a go-ahead, two-run single.

Descalso, who spends the offseason in San Francisco's Marina district, did well playing in his native Northern California.

But he was quick to praise all the pitchers out of the pen.

``The last two games they've been huge for us, coming in early, a lot earlier than we anticipated,'' Descalso said. ``They've been outstanding.''

St. Louis 18-game winner Lynn didn't allow a hit until Marco Scutaro's single to left leading off the fourth. Hunter Pence singled two outs later and Brandon Belt drove him home with a single. Gregor Blanco followed with a two-run triple, then Brandon Crawford hit an RBI double. Pinch hitter Aubrey Huff - a 2010 postseason star now in a diminished role - drew a walk to cheers of ``Aubrey! Aubrey!''

And, just like that, Lynn was done.

``The bullpen did a great job,'' catcher Yadier Molina said. ``We struck first, and to hold that lead, we won with the bullpen.''

Bumgarner and Lynn each lasted only 3 2-3 innings. That made for a long night in both pens.

Beltran and Freese each got Bumgarner with two strikes.

``I think that's been very much of a strong suit for us all season,'' Matheny said. ``And it's a beautiful thing when these guys trust themselves when they get to two strikes. They can be a little more selective early in the count and then they're not going to panic when we do get to two strikes. I give the guys a lot of credit.''

The pressure is now on for the Giants not to fall behind 2-0 at home again. They lost the first two games of their division series here to the Reds last weekend before winning three in a row at Cincinnati. They went 48-33 at AT&T Park this season.

``We've shown how resilient we can be,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ``We hate to lose them at home, but it happens. And we've got to wash this one off and come out and be ready to go tomorrow.''

Bumgarner, a 16-game winner for the NL West champs, lost Game 2 of the division series at home to the Reds exactly a week earlier.

He pitched a 1-2-3 first on Sunday but ran into trouble in the second when 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.

Bumgarner needed 30 pitches to get through the second, and now has an 11.25 ERA in his two postseason starts this year.

Lynn returned to the rotation for the NLCS and his first career postseason start after making four relief appearances in the division series. Matheny needed another starter after left-hander Jaime Garcia injured his left shoulder in Game 2 against the Nationals.

``Right now we feel like everyone's feeding off each other,'' reliever Joe Kelly said. ``If one guy does something, you want to go out and match it and try to keep that momentum going. It shows the confidence that Mike has in this bullpen. It makes us want to play better for him. He hands the ball off and he knows what he's doing.''

NOTES: Matheny caught for the Giants in 2005-06. He received a nice ovation during pregame introductions. ... Freese's two RBIs gave him 25 for his postseason career, tied with Molina for third most on the Cardinals. Albert Pujols is No. 1 with 52 and Jim Edmonds has 41. ... Both teams kept their rosters intact from the division series. ... The clubs split their season series 3-all. ... Giants assistant batting coach Joe Lefebvre took over 1B coaching duties in place of Roberto Kelly, who sustained a concussion after being hit by a ball off Buster Posey's bat during batting practice Saturday.

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?

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Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.

RELATED: FORMER NATS PITCHER ARRESTED WITH MORE THAN 40 POUNDS OF SUSPECTED COCAINE

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.

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He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.

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