Cardinals lead Giants after 3 innings of Game 4


Cardinals lead Giants after 3 innings of Game 4

ST. LOUIS (AP) Allen Craig drove in his first run of the NL championship series and the St. Louis Cardinals roughed up Tim Lincecum early in his first start of the postseason, taking a 2-1 lead over the San Francisco Giants after three innings in Game 4 on Thursday.

The Cardinals, up 2-1 with a potential clincher in St. Louis on Friday, got first-inning contributions from three struggling players. Jon Jay, batting .167 in the postseason, led off with a single. After Matt Carpenter - subbing for Carlos Beltran who tweaked his left knee in Game 3 - walked, Matt Holliday singled to score Jay. Holliday also was hitting .167 for the NLCS.

Craig, 0 for 9 in the NLCS, lined out to center field, scoring to score Carpenter, though Angel Pagan prevented more damage with a shoestring catch.

Early trouble was nothing new for Lincecum - he allowed 28 first-inning runs this season, the most in the majors.

Hunter Pence, 1 for 11 coming in and dropped to sixth from fifth in the order, hit a 451-homer off Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright well over the left field bullpen in the top of the second to cut the St. Louis lead in half. It was Pence's first RBI in nine playoff games.

The Cardinals could have had more, leaving two on each of the first two innings. Holliday flew out to the warning track to end the second. Angel Pagan tripled with two outs in the third for the Giants but was stranded when Marco Scutaro bounced to Wainwright.

The former tow-time Cy Young Award winner Lincecum struggled through the regular season with a 10-15 records and 5.18 ERA - highest among qualifying starting pitchers. He had been much better in the playoffs, going 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in 8 1-3 innings prior to Thursday. But all of that was in relief.

Wainwright has topped 200 innings in his first season after missing all of 2011 following Tommy John surgery. He hasn't quite regained the form that allowed him to win a combined 39 games in 2009-10, going 14-13 with a 3.97 ERA. He was knocked around in his last start, allowing six runs in 2 1-3 innings in Game 5 of the divisional series against Washington, though the Cardinals' rallied from a 6-0 deficit to bail him out.

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5 reasons the Capitals beat the Rangers in overtime

5 reasons the Capitals beat the Rangers in overtime

The Caps gave up a 2-1 and 3-2 lead, but ultimately came away victorious on Wednesday in a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers thanks to an overtime goal from Matt Niskanen.

Here are five reasons why the Caps won.

Djoos saves a goal

With the Caps already trailing 1-0 in the first period, they were about an inch away from going down by two. Luckily, Christian Djoos was there to make the save.

Yes, Djoos, not Braden Holtby.

A diving Jesper Fast got to a loose puck before any of the Caps defenders and beat Holtby with the shot. Djoos, however, was there to sweep the puck off the goal line and out, saving a goal.

That play turned out to be a two-goal swing as less than two minutes later, the Caps scored to tie the game at 1.

Carlson off the faceoff

The Caps emphasized the importance of the faceoff this week and worked on it specifically in practice on Tuesday. That practice turned out to be very prescient as Washington’s first goal of the night came right off the faceoff.

Nicklas Backstrom beat Ryan Spooner on the draw cleanly in the offensive zone, feeding the puck back to John Carlson. With the players all bunched up off the draw, Carlson benefitted from Brady Skjei standing right in front of Henrik Lundqvist. Carlson teed up the slap shot and beat Lundqvist who never saw the puck.

Of the five combined goals scored in the game, three were directly set up off a faceoff.

Hand-eye coordination

With the Caps on the power play, Fast tipped a pass meant for Carlson that looked like it was headed out of the offensive zone. Carlson reacted to the puck then stretched the stick and somehow managed to control the bouncing puck and keep it in the zone.

Fast charged Carlson at the blue line so he chipped the puck to Ovechkin in the office. Ovechkin managed to hit the puck just as it hit the ice and somehow beat Lundqvist with the shot.

Ovechkin was by the boards at the very edge of the circle. It was an amazing shot and it was set up by the great hustle play from Carlson. Both showed tremendous hand-eye coordination to control that puck.

Braden Holtby

Lundqvist entered this game with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage, but he was outplayed by his counterpart from Washington.

Holtby had himself a night. He was particularly strong down low with the pads as he made a number of key pad saves throughout the game, particularly in the second period when he recorded 17 saves including a shorthanded breakaway save on Kevin Hayes as time expired.

Of the three goals Holtby allowed, the first he made a great save on Chris Kreider who looked like he had an empty net to shoot at. Mike Zibanejad would score on the rebound. The second goal came as a shot deflected off Devante Smith-Pelly and went right to Jimmy Vesey for an easy tap-in. The third was a deflection goal from Kreider to redirect a shot that was going wide.

Can’t blame Holtby for those.

Working from the office

The Caps had three power play opportunities on the night. They scored on two of them and those two goals looked pretty darn similar.

There was the one described above in which a hustle play by Carlson at the point kept the puck alive and he fed to Ovechkin in the office. The second goal came with Carlson on the point feeding Ovechkin in the office.

Those two goals give Ovechkin 232 power play goals for his career, tying him with Dino Ciccarelli for ninth on the NHL’s all-time list.



Wayne Rooney converts ridiculous free-kick marking 10th MLS goal

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Wayne Rooney converts ridiculous free-kick marking 10th MLS goal

When England's all-time goalscorer signed on with D.C. United in June, the soccer community in the nation's capital was ignited. 

Shortly after the excitement came the questions. How much does he have left in the tank? Can he actually carry a struggling D.C. United squad? Is he up for the task? 

Wayne Rooney has responded. 

Through 18 MLS matches, the 32-year-old now has 10 goals. 

In the first half of Wednesday night's game against Toronto FC, Rooney broke a scoreless tie with this free-kick strike. 

DC United currently sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, on 44 points.