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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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Ozuna homers, Cardinals beat Nationals for 8th straight win

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Ozuna homers, Cardinals beat Nationals for 8th straight win

Marcell Ozuna homered and Austin Gomber tossed six shutout innings to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night.

St. Louis has won a season-high eight straight. The Cardinals, who are 18-9 since the All-Star break, captured their sixth successive series after taking the first three of the four-game set.

Daniel Murphy homered in the ninth for Washington, which has lost four in a row and seven of nine to fall below .500 and nine games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the NL East. The current skid began with a loss to the Cubs on a two-out, walk-off grand slam.

Ozuna homered in the second inning, his 14th of the season and his first since July 30.

Gomber (3-0), in his fourth start of the year, gave up three hits, struck out six and walked four.

Bud Norris pitched the ninth to pick up his 23rd save in 27 opportunities.

Harrison Bader and Yadier Molina added run-scoring hits for St. Louis, which improved to 19-9 since Mike Matheny was fired and replaced by interim manager Mike Shildt.

St. Louis infielder Matt Carpenter extended his on-base streak to 33 games with a walk in the fifth. It's the longest current streak in the majors. Carpenter left the game in the seventh after he was hit on the hand by a pitch from Matt Grace, but X-rays were negative.

Jeremy Hellickson (5-3) left in the fifth inning after colliding with Bader on a play at the plate following a wild pitch. Hellickson gave up three runs, two earned, on three hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out two and walked two.

Bader, who had three hits, also made a diving catch of a liner off the bat of Bryce Harper in the fourth.

The Cardinals, who have an NL-best 12-2 mark in August, remain one game behind Philadelphia for the second wild card spot. They are four games behind Chicago in the NL Central.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg threw a simulated game on Wednesday. He threw around 70 pitches and could be ready to return early next week, manager Dave Martinez said.

Cardinals: LHP Brett Cecil was activated from the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday. Cecil, who had been sidelined with inflammation in his right foot, pitched four scoreless innings in four appearances with Triple-A Memphis. LHP Tyler Webb was optioned to Memphis.

UP NEXT

RHP Tanner Roark (7-12, 4.12) will face RHP Luke Weaver (6-10, 4.66) in the finale of the four-game series on Thursday. Roark has won his last four decision, Weaver is 1-4 with a 5.13 ERA in nine career games against NL East foes.

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Nationals' Jeremy Hellickson exits game after collision

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Nationals' Jeremy Hellickson exits game after collision

Washington Nationals right-hander Jeremy Hellickson was removed from Wednesday night's game in St. Louis in the fifth inning after colliding with Cardinals outfielder Harrison Bader at the plate.

Hellickson was covering home after a wild pitch. He stumbled over Bader as Bader slid home safely.

Hellickson was charged with three runs, two earned, on three hits in his 4 1/3 innings. He struck out two and walked two.