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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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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will the Caps look different under new head coach Todd Reirden?

Tarik: It’s an important topic, but let’s not overthink this one. Since winning the Stanley Cup on June 7, the organization has pretty much telegraphed EXACTLY what it hopes will occur in 2018-19. Consider:

  • Todd Reirden was promoted after spending four years as Barry Trotz’s assistant, including the last two years as an associate coach with an expanded role. Reirden already knows everyone, from the players to the trainers and other support staff. He knows what buttons to push and when to push them. There’s a built-in comfort level and trust that should allow everyone to hit the ground running in September.
  • Four of Reirden’s assistants are holdovers, too. The one newcomer, Reid Cashman, is joining the group from Hershey and is a Reirden disciple. So, no adjustment period there, either.
  • Assuming restricted free agent Tom Wilson re-ups (and that would seem to be a very safe assumption), the Caps are bringing back 11 of the 12 forwards that were on the ice for Game 5 in Las Vegas. They’re also bringing back five of six defensemen. And the starting goaltender. Chemistry is a hard thing to explain and/or quantify. But you know when a team has it. And the Caps had it at the end of last year.

So if you look at what GM Brian MacLellan has been doing in recent weeks—and have been listening to what Reirden has been saying publicly—you can only come to one conclusion. The decision-makers feel they discovered the right mix of personnel and systems play at the end of the playoffs, from the defensive structure to special teams. In fact, they were first in goals per game, second-best on the power play and the fourth stingiest team in the postseason.

“Many of my [philosophies] were involved in how we were going to play, how our team was going to look, the identity that we had,” Reirden said on The Junkies recently, referring to last year’s game plan. “So, from a systems standpoint, I would say not much is going to change, at least initially, just because it seemed to work. …You’ll see much of the same.”

That doesn’t mean Reirden won’t make adjustments. He will because he’ll have to over the course of an 82-game regular season and, hopefully, another long postseason run. But it does underscore the fact that the foundation upon on which last year’s championship team was built is going to look awfully familiar. And that's clearly by design.

JJ:  The message from the Caps ever since Reirden was promoted to head coach has been one of consistency as they try to make a seamless transition to the new head coach. In that sense, we probably won't see many changes at all to start the season.

The Capitals just won the Stanley Cup and general manager Brian MacLellan worked to bring almost the exact same roster back for next season. Coming into the locker room saying there's a new sheriff in town and making drastic changes is not the way to go here

But that doesn't mean Reirden will do things the same way.

Reirden has coached at the college, AHL and NHL level. He has seen firsthand how Dan Bylsma won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how Trotz did it in Washington. He also saw what didn't work.

Reirden got to this point by developing relationships with the players. He is much more of a players' coach than Trotz and that will be evident in training camp. I also expect there will be a much greater emphasis on development. Trotz famously said to the media that the NHL was not a development league, but a performance league. I expect Reirden to take a different approach.

After failing to win with veteran-laden teams, the Caps finally hoisted the Cup last season after getting significant contributions from young prospects such as Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. Like it or not, the Caps' core will not last forever. Every year those players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson get another year older. I do not believe a coach who is as good at reaching players and developing them as Reirden is will be quite as reluctant to reach down onto the farm and sprinkle youth throughout his lineup whenever the team needs a spark.

It should not be lost on anyone that one of Reirden's new assistant coaches this year will be Reid Cashman, promoted from being an assistant with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. This is all good news for players like Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler and Connor Hobbs, the team's three best defensive prospects who are hoping to have an impact at the NHL level sooner rather than later. The Caps roster is pretty loaded, but at the very least you can expect Reirden to have a hand in helping those players along at training camp.

Ultimately, the product on the ice is going to look almost exactly the same at the start of the season with the biggest changes coming off the ice. We won't see who Reirden is as an NHL coach, however, until we let the full 82-game season play out.

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