It wasn't easy, but the St. Louis Cardinals held on.
The Cardinals rolled to a 6-0 lead in the fourth inning Sunday night, then got clutch pitching from their bullpen in a 6-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park.
David Freese hit a two-run homer in the second inning and Carlos Beltran added a two-run shot in a four-run fourth that gave the Cardinals their six-run lead against Madison Bumgarner.
The Giants, however, cut their deficit to 6-4 in the fourth against Lance Lynn, who couldn't escape the inning.
San Francisco, however, had just two more hits in the final 5 1/3 innings against relievers Joe Kelly, Marc Rzepczynski, Trevor Rosenthal, Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte.
Mujica struck out the side in the seventh and was credited with the victory. Motte worked the ninth for the save.
Yadier Molina had a one-out single to left in the second before Freese connected on a 3-2 pitch from Bumgarner, driving it into the left-center field seats to make it 2-0. Freese has six home runs and 25 RBIs in 25 postseason games.
The fun, at least at that point, was just beginning for the Cardinals.
Daniel Descalso ripped a one-out double past first in the fourth. Rookie sensation Pete Kozma, making a name for himself on the national stage, followed with a double past third to drive in Descalso and boost the Cardinals' lead to 3-0.
Kozma then stole third against the deliberate-working Bumgarner. Lynn struck out, but Jon Jay blooped a single to center to make it 4-0.
Beltran followed with a long homer to left on a 2-2 offering, making it 6-0 and knocking out Bumgarner. Beltran has 14 home runs and 25 RBIs in 29 postseason games.
George Kontos relieved Bumgarner and got Matt Holliday on a foulout to catcher Buster Posey to end the inning.
San Francisco jumped all over Lynn in the fourth.
Marco Scutaro led off with a single, giving the Giants their first hit. Pablo Sandoval struck out and Posey flied out to right.
But Hunter Pence's single was followed by an RBI single to center by Brandon Belt that made it 6-1.
Gregor Blanco then tripled to right-center to make it 6-3, and Brandon Crawford followed with a double to right to make it 6-4.
Pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff walked, and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny lifted Lynn in favor of Kelly, who needed just one pitch to get Angel Pagan on a fielder's choice.
Rzepczynski and Rosenthal combined for 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the Cardinals. Rzepczynski retired Belt on a fly to center to strand San Francisco runners at first and second in the fifth. Rosenthal worked a scoreless sixth, allowing a walk.
Mujica followed Rosenthal and fanned the side in the seventh. Boggs set down the Giants in order in the eighth. Motte worked around a two-out single to Pagan in the ninth, retiring Scutaro on a roller to first baseman Craig, who fed Motte at the bag.
Tim Lincecum and Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla and Jose Mijares followed Kontos to the mound for San Francisco. Lincecum worked two scoreless innings and Affeldt was perfect in the seventh before Casilla took over to start the eighth.
Casilla avoided damage after a one-out throwing error by third baseman Sandoval by striking out Freese and Descalso.
Giants relievers did not allow a hit after the fourth inning.
Game 2 of the series will be at 7:07 p.m. Monday, with Chris Carpenter pitching for St. Louis against Ryan Vogelsong.
The NLCS is being televised on KTVI-Channel 2 and can be heard on KMOX-AM 1120 and WXOS-FM 101.1.
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