Christian Petersen

Cardinals vs. Giants, 2012 NLCS: St. Louis sent packing as Giants take third straight

The Cardinals have lost their last two NLCS games—this is their last chance to avoid elimination and reach the World Series.

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Giants fan reaction from NLCS

McCovey Chronicles is just as dumbfounded as you are about the Giants' improbably NLCS win.

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Game 7 was 'frustrating end to a great season'

Despite the elimination of the Cardinals on Monday night, Cardinals bloggers are staying positive about what the 2012 season meant for the team.

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Lohse, Cards lose the plot in disastrous 3rd

The St. Louis Cardinals played well without getting the results through two-and-a-half innings, but in the bottom of the third the wheels came off—Kyle Lohse and Joe Kelly combined to let the score slip to 7-0 San Francisco Giants, meaning they'd now have to break their own postseason record to come back and take this particular elimination game. The defense didn't help, but the pitching just couldn't get things under control, and it could make all the difference.

Kelly, to his credit, came in with the bases loaded, but he wasn't able to do anything with it—he allowed two hits and walked two more. Finally Edward Mujica, erstwhile seventh-inning-guy, retired the Giants, but the damage had already been done; now the Cardinals can only hope to do to Matt Cain what the Giants just finished doing to Kyle Lohse and company.

A word, not as regional editor but generic Cardinals fan: This game isn't over yet—in part because that inning took forever—but speaking as a Cardinals fan I'm pretty okay with whatever happens here. You can only win so many absurd postseason series before you start looking like the Rocky franchise.

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Kyle Lohse can't help himself vs. Cain in 2nd

The St. Louis Cardinals continued to look better against the San Francisco Giants than they have since Game 4, and they continued to get nothing out of it through an inning-and-a-half of Game 7. Kyle Lohse comes out to pitch his second frame with the Giants still ahead by a score of 1-0.

The Ryan Vogelsong game saw the Cardinals not just without runs but without opportunities—the few hits they did get came with two outs, and the Giants never really seemed at risk. That wasn't the case in the second; a leadoff liner from Yadier Molina and David Freese's no-out walk both came after hard-fought at-bats, and Daniel Descalso's hard groundout to first might have been a single if Brandon Belt hadn't been playing in.

But the Cardinals' lineup ran out of slack a little early—Pete Kozma struck out in a full-count against Cain, which led to Kyle Lohse at the plate with two out and two in scoring position. Which is not really where you want the pitcher in Game 7 of the NLCS. Lohse gave it a ride, but Brandon Crawford made a leaping grab to snare his fliner, ending another frustrating Cardinals threat.

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Giants on board 1st: swinging bunt befuddles Lohse

The San Francisco Giants scored first against the reeling St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the NLCS, after leadoff base hits from Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro turned into a swinging-bunt RBI from Pablo Sandoval. But the Cardinals' struggling defense recovered enough for Pete Kozma to get an out on a bad hop, and Kyle Lohse struck out Hunter Pence to end the threat. Depending on how you score momentum, the 1-0 first inning was either a short-term Cardinals disaster or a medium-term Cardinals moral victory.

Whatever it was, they'll need to reach Matt Cain quickly. The Cardinals' moribund bats could come back to life in a hurry; if they don't, one run might be all Cain needs, and if they do one run won't mean much at all.

The Cardinals will send Yadier Molina, David Freese, and Daniel Descalso out in the top of the second inning, with Kozma and Lohse on the hook for run-scoring if one of them reaches. Kozma and Descalso's hot starts prove that it doesn't matter who does the hitting for the Cards, so long as somebody does it.

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Cards scoreless in first frame

After Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong did it, it only made sense that San Francisco Giants ace Matt Cain shut out the St. Louis Cardinals in the first frame of Game 7 of the NLCS. The Cardinals looked a little more on point than they have since Game 4, but it wasn't enough to push a run across in the first.

Cain was sharp from the start, striking out Jon Jay with some big fastballs, but Carlos Beltran put the Cardinals on the board a little earlier than they managed in Game 6—and with fewer than two outs, for once—with a Texas Leaguer single. Matt Holliday worked the count full before flying out deep to center, and Allen Craig popped out to Pablo Sandoval, stranding Beltran—who stole his 11th postseason base—at second.

Now Kyle Lohse comes to the mound. If the Cardinals lose here it's almost certain to be the last start of the free agent's five-year tenure with the club; win or lose it's almost certainly the biggest game of his St. Louis career. After the Cardinals' last two starters were undone by fastball command, it at least seems likely that he'll have another tragic flaw.

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Rain could derail Game 7 starters

The St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants are set to meet Monday night with the National League championship on the line, but if this were any game but NLCS Game 7 they might not be playing at AT&T Park. It's raining in San Francisco, and the forecast all week has suggested it'll keep up. Weather.com suggests the forecast has changed to more intermittent showers, which means what MLB watchers have suspected all along: It'll take a deluge to get this one postponed, with Game 1 of the World Series set for Wednesday and the Detroit Tigers still unsure of their next move.

If a downpour forces a delay, that could mean interesting things for both sides' pitching staffs—starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Cain could be forced out of the game earlier than anyone anticipates, at which point it could come down to a battle of the bullpens (and the rested members of the rotation.)

It's easy to get ahead of yourself in situations like this, with the game not even begun and the rain not even here, but that does mean, at least theoretically, that Adam Wainwright might appear in another NLCS Game 7 with everything on the line (and Carlos Beltran on the field.)

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Cards fans ready for Game 7

After back-to-back losses, the Cardinals now face Game 7, a game their fans are ready for.

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Cards finally on board as Vogelsong Ks 9

The St. Louis Cardinals finally got through against Ryan Vogelsong in Game 6 of the NLCS Sunday night, with Carlos Beltran coming around off his two-out double on Allen Craig's RBI single. They still trail the San Francisco Giants 5-1, but the no-hitter and the shutout came off the board in consecutive innings. After Chris Carpenter struggled through his start, Cardinals top prospect Shelby Miller entered the game; he's struck out two in two scoreless innings.

The Cardinals are not so out of this game as it appeared when Chris Carpenter was struggling and the defense looked aimless, but they'll have to really chase Vogelsong—and do some rallying before two outs are on the board—if they want to rally yet again. The Giants got the bullpen up after the Cardinals scored, but sat it down again to start the seventh inning.

On the evening the Cardinals have just six baserunners—and every one of their hits has come with two outs on the board. For more live updates and worrying about the NLCS in general and Game 6 in partiuclar, stay tuned to this storystream.

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Giants lead 5-0 as Carpenter scuffles

Chris Carpenter just hasn't had his fastball in the NLCS, and his troubles continued in Game 6, with the St. Louis Cardinals falling behind 5-0 on a second-inning double from Marco Scutaro. His poor fastball command was the primary issue, but it was compounded by Pete Kozma's error on the butcher-boy play from San Francisco Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. Carpenter struck Angel Pagan out but couldn't retire Scutaro.

The Cardinals can score four runs, but they'll need to do it against Ryan Vogelsong, who's completely mystified them through nine NLCS innings so far. After going seven and allowing one run back in Game 2, he's struck out five in two innings in Game 6, leaving the Cardinals befuddled.

If the Cardinals reach the World Series, they're going to have to ask themselves some difficult questions about Chris Carpenter. He simply can't throw his fastball for strikes, and as strikingly normal as his breaking pitches look, there's only so much you can do when your fastball options are to groove one or walk the batter on four pitches. Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller would be the Cardinals' options if he were left off the roster.

For now, though, they just need to win.

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Cardinals falter as Giants take early Game 6 lead

The St. Louis Cardinals have been unable to solve Ryan Vogelsong through two innings in Game 6 of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants—he's got five strikeouts and just one walk in two innings, and the Giants have staked him to a 1-0 lead against Chris Carpenter so far. Vogelsong won the Giants' first game of the NLCS earlier in the series, striking out four and allowing one run in seven strong innings.

Carpenter looked shaky in the first inning, just as he did in Game 2—he simply doesn't seem confident in his stuff, and he's not fooling Giants hitters. Nevertheless, he almost got out of the inning unscathed; David Freese double-clutched on Buster Posey's groundout, forcing him to go to first base with one out instead of cutting down the runner at home.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals look uncomfortable against Vogelsong's pitching, which basically involves a lot of fastballs thrown at various locations in and around the strike zone. Stay tuned to SB Nation St. Louis for live updates, injury reports, and intermittent complaints about the zone and Chris Carpenter's struggles.

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Matt Holliday scratched from Game 6

Matt Holliday was scratched from the lineup ahead of Game 6 of the NLCS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants with lingering back tightness. Matt Carpenter will replace him in the lineup.

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Chris Carpenter, sans rib, makes another big start

Chris Carpenter is already a postseason hero, but he could have a Moment if he wins Game 6 of the NLCS months after having a rib surgically removed.

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Cards' season depends on Chris Carpenter, again

In 2011 Chris Carpenter won Game 5 of the NLDS and Game 7 of the World Series. Now he's the unlikely starter for the Cardinals in Game 6 of the NLCS, as they face the resilient San Francisco Giants.

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No changes in lineups for Cardinals or Giants

The St. Louis Cardinals will clinch a trip to the World Series with a win over the San Francisco Giants in Game 6 of the 2012 National League Championship Series. Despite losing 5-0 in Game 5 on Friday, the Cardinals will use the same lineup on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Giants will counter with their Game 5 lineup, as well.

Chris Carpenter (0-1, 4.50) and Ryan Vogelsong (1-0, 1.29) are the only new names written into either lineup. They'll face off in a rematch of Game 2, which the Giants took by a score of 7-1.

Carlos Beltran went 1-for-4 in his first start since leaving Game 3 with an injury. Matt Carpenter, who had three hits and two walks while playing in place of Beltran, didn't see any action on Friday and isn't in the lineup for Game 6.

Here are the full lineups:

Cardinals

1. Jon Jay CF
2. Carlos Beltran RF
3. Matt Holliday LF
4. Allen Craig 1B
5. Yadier Molina C
6. David Freese 3B
7. Daniel Descalso 2B
8. Pete Kozma SS
9. Chris Carpenter P

Giants

1. Angel Pagan CF
2. Marco Scutaro 2B
3. Pablo Sandoval 3B
4. Buster Posey C
5. Hunter Pence RF
6. Brandon Belt 1B
7. Gregor Blanco LF
8. Brandon Crawford SS
9. Ryan Vogelsong P

First pitch is slated for 5:30 p.m. from AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif.

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Cardinals looking to take Game 6 of NLCS

The Cardinals take on the Giants in Game 6 of the NLCS. First pitch is at 6:30 p.m. CT on FOX.

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Was Barry Zito's performance in Game 5 just luck?

The Cardinals were dominated by an unlikely antagonist on Friday night, and they will be headed back to San Francisco for Game 6.

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Barry Zito shocks everyone, especially Giants fans

The Giants beat the Cardinals on Friday night to force a Game 6 in the NLCS. San Francisco fans are excited about their much-maligned starting pitcher's performance.

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Pablo Sandoval homers as Zito baffles Cards

the San Francisco Giants continue to pile on against a silent St. Louis Cardinals offense in the eighth inning of their must-win Game 5 of the NLCS. After Lance Lynn's error led to four runs in the fourth inning both teams fell silent until the eighth, when Pablo Sandoval hit a long home run off set-up man Mitchell Boggs to push the score to 5-0. The Giants are playing to push the series back to San Francisco, where they'll have to win Games 6 and 7 to make their second World Series in three years.

The Giants have five runs on six hits, despite having struck out 12 times—they've been nothing if not well-timed on Friday. The Cardinals are scoreless with six hits, despite two doubles that looked perfectly ralliable. The Giants have played fine defense, Zito has kept the ball in the strike zone, and the Cardinals' offense, so consistently active on Thursday, have been unable to do anything with his typically hittable stuff.

After an off-day Saturday, the Cardinals and the Giants—barring another weird comeback—will reconvene the NLCS in San Francisco on Sunday.

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Giants put 4 on Cards in Game 5's 4th inning

Lance Lynn's pitching has been almost beyond reproach, but his fielding led directly to the San Francisco Giants' first runs of the night in the NLCS's crucial Game 5. Lynn made an ill-advised throw to second base on a Hunter Pence grounder that skipped off the bag into the outfield, allowing Marco Scutaro to score and throwing away an easy out in the fourth inning. Lynn retired Brandon Belt next, but a Gregor Blanco walk led to two runs when Brandon Crawford hit a full-count single up the middle to make the score 3-0. A Barry Zito bunt single—you don't see many of those—made it 4-0.

He'd been outstanding up to that point, but thanks to the error he couldn't get around leadoff singles from Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval. Lynn's last fourth inning wasn't great, either—in Game 2 of the NLCS, in his first postseason start ever, he also allowed four runs in what was ultimately a 6-4 Cardinals victory.

That was it for Lance Lynn—the killer wasn't his pitching, it was his throwing. You'll remember the 2006 World Series, but hopefully not too much.

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Lance Lynn sharp to start Game 5—except at bat

Lance Lynn has struck some St. Louis Cardinals fans—the kind of fans who make psychological determinations based on a player's baseball stats—as a bit of a flake, particularly in the first inning. But through three in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, with a World Series berth on the line, Lynn has been nearly perfect, allowing just one baserunner through three and striking out five.

Lynn made his first postseason start against the Giants in Game 1, where—after an excellent start—he allowed four runs in the fourth inning of an eventual 6-4 Cardinals win. That, of course, is the Cardinals' concern, but manager Mike Matheny has shown a significantly longer leash for his starting pitchers than Tony La Russa did in 2011's bullpen-driven World Series run.

Of course, he has made one mistake: Lynn grounded into a double play to end the Cardinals' bases-loaded attempt at breaking things open against Barry Zito in the second inning. Zito and the Giants will be able to tell their grandchildren about the time they intentionally walked Pete Kozma.

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Giants pin playoff livelihood on Barry Zito

WIth their backs to the wall, down 3-1 in the NLCS, the San Francisco Giants are pinning their hopes on the left arm of Barry Zito as he starts Game 5 against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night at Busch Stadium.

Zito, he of the seven-year, $126 million contract, has long been the goat of an otherwise solid Giants starting rotation. In his six years with San Francisco, he's posted an undesirable 58-69 record with a 4.47 ERA and was left off the Giants' playoff roster in 2010. Despite his track record of failure in black and orange, the lefty actually had a serviceable second half of 2012 (8-2, 4.31 ERA) and with Madison Bumgarner struggling with fatigue and performance issues, the 2010 World Champs have nowhere else to turn.

The Giants hope there's still some magic left in the soft-tossing left-hander they sunk a ton of money into back in 2007. Against a Cardinals offense that is firing on all cylinders and just one win away from a World Series showdown with the Detroit Tigers, they'll need Barry Zito circa 2002, or they'll be sent packing.

First pitch for Game 5 is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT and the game will be televised on FOX.

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Matt Carpenter is... The Understudy

A Carlos Beltran injury could have spelled trouble for the Cardinals offense in the NLCS. But they've had a secret weapon all season for exactly this purpose.

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Giants vs. Cardinals, 2012 NLCS: Game 5 preview

St. Louis will get a chance to clinch a World Series berth at home on Friday night as they face San Francisco in game 5 of the NLCS.

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Giants vs. Cardinals: Streaky offense hurting SF

Plenty of factors went into San Francisco's loss to St. Louis on Thursday, but McCovey Chronicles singled out the streaky offense.

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Detroit, St. Louis could meet for 5th World Series

The Detroit Tigers won the American League pennant Friday. If the Cardinals join them things could look pretty familiar.

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Cards extend NLCS lead to 3-1 with Game 4 win

Adam Wainwright allowed one run over seven innings and the offense behind him flashed its division-series form as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the San Francisco Giants by a final score of 8-3, taking Game 4 of the 2012 NLCS and putting the defending champions within one win of a return trip to the World Series. Jon Jay, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Pete Kozma all had two hits for the Cardinals, who jumped on Tim Lincecum early and kept the pressure up against the Giants bullpen.

Lincecum, returning to the Giants rotation after a postseason stint as their relief stopper, struggled from the start—Holliday took advantage of a leadoff single and a Matt Carpenter walk to drive in the game's first run without an out. They scored four times in two run increments, reaching Lincecum again in the fifth and adding on against the bullpen in the sixth and seventh.

It was a broad-based offensive attack, and it puts the Cardinals in view of their first back-to-back pennants since 1968—when they lost in seven games to the Detroit Tigers despite near perfection from Bob Gibson and Lou Brock. They're still a game away from being able to worry about that kind of historical symmetry; Lance Lynn will take the mound for Game 5 on Friday.

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Pete Kozma (of course) drives in the 8th Cards run

By now, St. Louis Cardinals fans have stopped acting surprised when Pete Kozma comes up big in the postseason. In Game 4 of the NLCS, against the San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals' unlikely starting shortstop singled in their eighth run of the night, putting them up by a score of 8-1 in the seventh inning. It was the capper on the Cardinals' fourth two-run inning; they'd picked up a run moments earlier on Yadier Molina's RBI double.

Believe it or not, that's Kozma's seventh RBI of the postseason and just the third for Molina, who drove in a career-high 76 in the regular season as part of an MVP-caliber performance. Never mind that Pete Kozma nearly finished with the worst OPS in the AAA Pacific Coast League a little more than a month ago; this is a postseason in which he's precipitated a riot on behalf of the infield fly rule. At this point there's nothing left but to enjoy it while it lasts.

Kozma is the fifth Cardinal to drive in a run to back Adam Wainwright's sterling performance; heading into the ninth inning they're three outs away from taking a 3-1 lead in the 2012 NLCS.

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Cards score 6, reach Giants' bullpen in Game 4

The St. Louis Cardinals scored six runs—that number is Serious, at least when they're being broadcast by Fox Sports Midwest—for the second time in the NLCS Thursday night, when Jon Jay hit a one-out double to put them up on the San Francisco Giants by the score of 6-1 in the sixth inning. The Cardinals' offensive attack has been as broad-based as advertised, with doubles from Jay and Matt Carpenter and RBI from Jay, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina, and a resurgent Matt Holliday.

They've also gotten a strong performance from their heretofore-shaky rotation. Adam Wainwright, who allowed seven runs in eight NLDS innings, allowed just one run in seven on Thursday, with a Hunter Pence solo home run the only blemish. Tim Lincecum, recently returned from the bullpen, was less fortunate, allowing two runs in the first and fifth innings before exiting for the bullpen.

The Cardinals and their fans are no strangers to 2012 postseason comebacks in which a well-regarded team scores six runs, so nobody's counting chickens yet. But the Giants will have to get going soon—and they'll have to stop the Cardinals' offense now.

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Cardinals knock Lincecum out of Game 4

The St. Louis Cardinals got to Tim Lincecum early in Game 4 of their NLCS series with the San Francisco Giants, with the first three batters he faced reaching on their way to a two-run first, and just when Giants fans thought the Freak had settled down they got to him again in the fifth, ending the Giants' deposed ace's night on a bad note when series hero and Carlos Beltran replacement Matt Carpenter just missed another home run on a double that led to two more runs. With Lincecum out of the game after five, the Cardinals lead by a score of 4-1.

In the meantime, the Cardinals' own deposed ace, Adam Wainwright, has put together an excellent—if low-key—start, allowing one run in six innings on four strikeouts and no walks. His only mistake: a sinker he grooved to Hunter Pence for a second-inning home run.

The Cardinals continued to rally in Lincecum's absence, meaning the Giants will have to get to Wainwright early if they want to avoid a 3-1 NLCS deficit.

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Carlos Beltran out of Cardinals Game 4 lineup

After suffering a mild left knee strain in the bottom of the first inning of Wednesday night's 3-1 win over the San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran will be out of the team's lineup for Game 4 on Thursday, according to a report from Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Beltran apparently hurt the knee while grounding into a double play against Matt Cain. He was replaced by Matt Carpenter, who crushed a key two-run blast off of Cain.

According to a report from Rick Hummel, also of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Beltran underwent an MRI on Wednesday night, and while results were negative, Beltran was still very sore after the injury and had hoped to play after receiving treatment on the knee before Thursday's game.

First pitch is slated for 7 p.m. PT at Busch Stadium and the game will be televised on FOX.

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Bochy tabs Lincecum to start Game 4 vs. Cards

Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced the right-hander, who struggled for most of the 2012 season, will take the mound for a crucial Game 4 against the Cardinals.

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Matt Carpenter powers Cardinals to Game 3 victory

The Cardinals survived a rain-delayed Game 3 despite being outhit by the Giants.

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NLCS Game 3 set to resume at 9:05 p.m CT

Game 3 of the National League Championship Series between the Saint Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants is set to resume at 9:05 p.m. CT, following a rain delay, according to the Giants' official Twitter feed.

The Cardinals hold a 3-1 lead as play will resume in the bottom of the seventh inning with St. Louis batting. Jon Jay will be at the plate with two outs and two runners on base: Daniel Descalso is on third base and Pete Kozma on second.

Jay will not face Matt Cain, who pitched 6⅔ innings for the Giants before the delay forced the end of his start. Before the delay was called, however, left-hander Javier Lopez was announced as a new pitcher. It is unclear whether or not Lopez will still take the mound, though because of the delay, he will not be made to face a batter if the Giants wish to opt for a different pitcher.

Just before the rain delay, which has lasted nearly 3½ hours, Shane Robinson hit home David Freese on a groundout to second base to make the score 3-1.

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Cards lead 3-1 going into a Game 3 rain delay

With the grounds-crew waiting to run the tarp out in the bottom of the seventh inning, and a rain delay imminent, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Shane Robinson drove in a run on a bases-loaded groundout, pushing the Cardinals' lead to 3-1 over the San Francisco Giants. We go into an indefinite rain delay on that half-finished note—now Giants starter Matt Cain's night is over, and we the Cardinals are stuck on the verge of opening up what's been a close game all afternoon.

No word yet as to when the game will continue; severe weather has been in the forecast for St. Louis all day, and tornado watches were on the menu as this system passed through Missouri. The storm itself could go on another hour.

The Cardinals got started early and oddly—a Carlos Beltran knee injury forced them to go to their bench in the top of the second inning, and his replacement, four-corners utility hitter Matt Carpenter, homered in his first at-bat to give them a 2-1 lead they'd carry right up to the edge of the delay.

With Beltran and Allen Craig—double-switched out for Robinson—out of the game, the Cardinals' offense won't be especially dangerous in any extra-inning situation, so that pre-rain-delay insurance run could be crucial. They'll be without Mitchell Boggs, Edward Mujica, and Trevor Rosenthal when they try to get the last six outs of this game; for now, though, we're left waiting to see when they'll get the opportunity.

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As rain falls, Boggs saves Cards lead

The St. Louis Cardinals had to bring in Mitchell Boggs—one-third of their game-closing trio—an inning early in Game 3 of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants, when seventh-inning specialist Edward Mujica ran into trouble with one out and San Francisco threatened to score. If that doesn't seem like it should be a big deal, you haven't watched Mike Matheny manage; Mujica to Boggs to Jason Motte is his Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, and he typically neither tinkers nor chances with it. (Ever.) (I'm sorry.)

But the move paid off: Boggs, who struggled early in the postseason, came through with consecutive strikeouts against Giants sluggers Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt to save the Cardinals' thin 2-1 lead.

With six outs standing between them and their second win of the series, the Cardinals find themselves in an oddly precarious situation. Ahead of a possible rain delay the Cardinals have already burned Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal, and to bring Boggs in Matheny made the incomprehensible decision to remove starting outfielder Allen Craig, which limits their offense.

But: They only have six outs to go, thanks to Mitchell Boggs.

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MattCarp homers in first AB as Beltran's fill-in

Matt Carpenter came into the St. Louis Cardinals' Game 3 matchup with the San Francisco Giants to replace Carlos Beltran—who left after the first inning with a knee strain—but he made an impact in his own right almost immediately, hitting a long home run off Matt Cain in his first at-bat of the game to put the Cardinals on top by a score of 2-1 after three innings.

Carpenter is now 5-5 off Cain in his short career, and 2-6 with three RBI in the postseason; he had a pinch-hit RBI in the Cardinals' Wild Card win over the Atlanta Braves.

Carpenter's job all season has been to fill in for aching veterans—he got his big opportunity as Lance Berkman's caddy, and he's found himself at first base and right field on behalf of Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig. In fact, one of the players he filled in for least was David Freese, the injury-prone third baseman for whom he makes a perfect backup.

In Game 3 of the NLCS he found himself, on very short notice, playing right, a position he's been uncomfortable with throughout the regular season. And through one at-bat and a few innings, it's worked out just-about-perfectly.

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Giants strike first behind Marco Scutaro double

The San Francisco Giants struck first in Game 3 of the NLCS vs. the St. Louis Cardinals, and Marco Scutaroinjured by a Game 2 takeout slide—was instrumental in their third-inning rally, hitting a double down the line that put runners on second and third with nobody out. Pablo Sandoval grounded out to drive in a run, but Kyle Lohse induced a double play to end the inning, leaving the Giants out of luck and the score at 1-0 through two-and-a-half innings.

Timely double play aside, Lohse has been less than stellar in his first start of the NLCS. In three innings he's allowed just the one run, but he's also thrown 57 pitches and walked three batters. The Cardinals need more out of their regular season ace, but he's running out of time to provide it.

Of course, that reads as good news, now: The Cardinals have gotten out of all those scrapes down just one run against Giants ace Matt Cain, who's allowed one hit—a ground-ball single to Yadier Molina—through two innings. If Lohse, and the Cardinals bullpen, can improve through the next six innings, they're still in a solid position to come back. Things could be much, much worse.

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Carlos Beltran leaves Game 3 in 2nd inning

Carlos Beltran injury speculation bubbled up out of Busch Stadium in the second inning of the St. Louis Cardinals' NLCS Game 3 vs. the San Francisco Giants, when the Cardinals' star right fielder was pulled from the game after grounding into a double play in the game's first inning. Beltran's hand, which has given him trouble for much of the season, was wrapped on Monday according to a tweet from Joe Strauss, who suggested he might have reaggravated it. Beltran tweeted at the time that—well, he tweeted this—

For what it's worth, Carlos Beltran is one of the more delightfully positive human beings on Twitter—he's like Rob Lowe on Parks and Recreation. In any case, the Cardinals are now without him for the rest of Wednesday's Game 3. In his place Mike Matheny sent designated caddy Matt Carpenter, who filled in for Beltran, Lance Berkman, David Freese, and Allen Craig at various moments in the 2012 season.

He's not really a right fielder, but he's a fine hitter, and the Cardinals' best bet for filling the offensive gap left by Beltran.

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Marco Scutaro back in lineup after Game 2 injury

Marco Scutaro injury talk centered more around the Matt Holliday takeout slide that left him banged up—you can watch a video of it here—than the actual status of the San Francisco Giants' second baseman, but it looks like that won't be a problem; he was in the lineup for Game 3 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, popping out on a Kyle Lohse pitch in the top of the first inning.

Scutaro was outstanding after moving to the Giants midway through the 2012 season, hitting .362/.385/.473 across 51 games after struggling with the Colorado Rockies. The 36-year-old is an unlikely star for a team that's three wins away from appearing in the World Series, but they need him; their utility infielder is Ryan Theriot, who was an unlikely starter for a team that won the World Series just a year ago.

The Giants and the Cardinals are playing Game 3 at Busch Stadium; for injury news, analysis, and animated GIFs of people taking each other out, stay tuned to SB Nation St. Louis.

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Ryan Vogelsong delivers strong showing for Giants

With a 6.46 ERA in the months of August and September, Ryan Vogelsong limped into the postseason but came up big for the Giants in Game 2 of the NLCS.

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Viva El Birdos blogger not impressed by Game 2

Viva El Birdos blogger was not impressed by Cards' Game 2 performance.

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Cards fall 7-1 in sloppy Game 2

Game 2 of the NLCS went to the San Francisco Giants by a final score of 7-1, and for St. Louis Cardinals fans there was little to see; Chris Carpenter just wasn't very sharp, and he paid for it at the 90th percentile, allowing five runs (two earned) in four innings and striking out just one. He also drove in the Cardinals' only run, which is all that need be said about the Cardinals offense.

Ryan Vogelsong picked up the win for the Giants, throwing seven innings and allowing just one run. Angel Pagan's leadoff home run gave San Francisco their first home lead of the postseason, but it was RBIs from Marco Scutaro and Ryan Theriot that put them over the top.

Speaking of which—Marco Scutaro and Matt Holliday were at the center of the NLCS's first big controversy Sunday night, when Holliday used an aggressive takeout slide to break up a double play. Scutaro eventually left the game, and discussion about whether the move was A) legal and B) moral flared up in predictably diverse ways, which will continue to blossom as the series progresses.

The series goes back to Busch Stadium tied, and the Cardinals couldn't have asked for much more than that. But they'll have to play better baseball even with the home field advantage to win in the postseason.

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Chris Carpenter helps himself to Game 2 at 1-1

Chris Carpenter is a career .118/.145/.150 hitter in 439 major league at-bats. He has eight doubles and two home runs, one of them a grand slam. In four at-bats in the 2012 postseason, the St. Louis Cardinals big, angry ace has two doubles. In Game 2 of the NLCS he doubled in his first at-bat, tying the score at 1-1 and erasing the San Francisco Giants' first home lead of the postseason.

That's the sort of thing Chris Carpenter seems to do in his quest to make himself the official action hero of the St. Louis Cardinals. Already this year he's come back from a surgery that required the removal of one of his ribs, returned to the postseason to get a win after making three regular-season starts, and now hit a double to tie the score after giving up a leadoff home run.

Cardinals fans have gotten used to this sort of thing right now in aggregate, but the individual plays are still incredible to watch. Eventually Chris Carpenter will suffer some injury or become ineffective in a way that he's unable to fight back from, but it appears that it hasn't happened yet.

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Watch Matt Holliday's takeout slide vs. Scutaro

Matt Holliday takes out Marco Scutaro with a slide in the general direction of second base. He is a very large man.

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Angel Pagan's leadoff HR gives Giants Game 2 lead

The San Francisco Giants got off to an early lead Monday night in Game 2 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, with leadoff hitter Angel Pagan pulling a home run into McCovey's Cove to make the score 1-0 after half an inning. It's Pagan's second home run of the postseason after he hit eight in 154 games of the regular season. Chris Carpenter gave up a single to the next batter and walked another, but got two foul outs and a grounder to escape the inning.

The lead is apparently the Giants' first postseason lead of the year, and they'll rely on Ryan Vogelsong to do it. He walked Carlos Beltran and allowed a single to Matt Holliday before retiring Yadier Molina on a ground ball to end the first-inning threat.

Carpenter, 10-2 in his postseason career, threw 5.2 shaky shutout innings in his lone start of the NLDS. He got the win and he didn't allow a run, but he looked about as hittable as someone can get while fulfilling those parameters, especially early—which is to say that the Giants should pile on if they get the chance.

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Cardinals vs. Giants: Lineups for NLCS Game 2

Seeking to follow up their Game 1 victory with a similar result on Monday evening, the St. Louis Cardinals will give the ball to right-hander Chris Carpenter for the second game of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants.

The 37-year-old Carpenter did not give up a run through 5-2/3 innings against the Nationals during his only other postseason appearance, but looks to be back in form after missing virtually the entire 2012 campaign due to injury. Carpenter is also 4-1 with a 3.57 earned-run average over eight prior starts against the Giants, and enters with 23 strikeouts in slightly more than 20 innings in his October career.

St. Louis will feature the exact same batting order from Game 1 with speedster Jon Jay atop the lineup, as third baseman David Freese is once again slated to bat sixth after smacking a clutch two-run homer on Sunday. The Cardinals will hope to get the better of San Francisco hurler Ryan Vogelsong, a veteran righty who held St. Louis scoreless over seven innings back on Aug. 8.

Here are the starting lineups for Game 2 of the NLCS:

Cardinals
1. Jon Jay (L) CF
2. Carlos Beltran (S) RF
3. Matt Holliday (R) LF
4. Allen Craig (R) 1B
5. Yadier Molina (R) C
6. David Freese (R) 3B
7. Daniel Descalso (L) 2B
8. Pete Kozma (R) SS
9. Chris Carpenter (R) P

Giants
1. Angel Pagan (S) CF
2. Marco Scutaro (R) 2B
3. Pablo Sandoval (S) 3B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Hunter Pence (R) RF
6. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
7. Gregor Blanco (L) LF
8. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
9. Ryan Vogelsong (R) P

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Cardinals vs. Giants: Time, TV schedule and more

The St. Louis Cardinals hope to ride Chris Carpenter's postseason success to take Game 2 of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants.

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Madison Bumgarner isn't quite right

San Francisco Giants fans believe something is wrong with Madison Bumgarner, and wouldn't mind seeing the talented lefty shut down for the rest of the 2012 season.

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Cards take Game 1, narrowly avoid losing 6-0 lead

The St. Louis Cardinals nearly lost their own 6-0 lead in Game 1 of the NLCS, but while the San Francisco Giants managed to make up for Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma, and Carlos Beltran, David Freese and his two-run homer was one postseason hero too many; they lost by a final score of 6-4. Edward Mujica picked up the win for St. Louis, whose bullpen managed to hold the Giants scoreless after they got to Lance Lynn for four runs in the fourth inning.

The Cardinals' own 6-0 lead lasted just two outs before the Giants went after it. Beltran's big home run, seemingly a knockout blow, turned out to be the deciding margin when Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco, and Brandon Crawford combined to drive in four two-out runs against the Cardinals' 18-game winner.

The road win is important for the Cardinals, who were forced to start Lance Lynn after Jaime Garcia's shoulder problems pushed him out of the postseason rotation. On Monday night at AT&T Park the Cardinals will send out Chris Carpenter, making his fifth start of the 2012 season, to face Ryan Vogelsong, one of the most unlikely postseason starters this side of Chris Carpenter. (You may remember him from 2004, when he was one of the worst pitchers on the Pirates; now he's 27-16 with an ERA of 3.05 over the last two years.)

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Cards, Giants trade rallies in the 4th

The St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants traded big fourth innings in Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday, with the Cardinals putting four runs on Madison Bumgarner and the Giants responding with four more of their own. After four, with both starters knocked out of the game, the score at AT&T Park is 6-4

The Cardinals' inning went as planned for this postseason—big hits from Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma, and then a two-run homer from Carlos Beltran. Combined with their two-run homer from David Freese earlier in the game, it couldn't have been a more typical piece of scoring on their end. For their troubles they'll get Tim Lincecum, who's been a kind of shutdown long reliever in the postseason so far.

The Giants just pushed base hit after base hit past Lynn, who'd been strong through three. He saw nine hitters before Mike Matheny, who didn't have anybody warming, got Joe Kelly into the situation; Kelly was saved only when Daniel Descalso made a diving play on a grounder up the middle.

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Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso star again in NLCS

Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma weren't done mystifying baseball after they keyed the St. Louis Cardinals' comeback in Game 5 of the NLDS, apparently. Back-to-back doubles in the fourth inning started the Cardinals' four-run rally against Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants, with Descalso scoring on Kozma's and Kozma, after stealing third base, scoring on a base hit from Jon Jay. The Cardinals probably don't need their infielders to each turn into Vladimir Guerrero, but it's helped.

Kozma's run has been more surprising just because he was so ineffective in the minor leagues, but Descalso's string of extra-base hits is almost equally unlikely. He slugged just .324 across 374 at-bats in 2012, with 10 doubles, seven triples, and two home runs.

That's 21 extra-base hits, or one every 18 at-bats. In the postseason he's now got four, or one every six at-bats. The Cardinals will be looking at middle infielders in the offseason, even with Rafael Furcal back, but Kozma and Descalso both have done their best to make a case for time in the postseason.

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David Freese strikes again, Cardinals lead 2-0

David Freese hit a home run in the postseason, you guys. The St. Louis Cardinals' third baseman drove in the first runs of NLCS Game 1 against the San Francisco Giants, hitting a second-inning homer to score Yadier Molina and stake Lance Lynn to a 2-0 lead. Freese hit .421 with three doubles in the Cardinals' NLDS against the Washington Nationals to continue his absurd postseason run last week, and he's off to a similar pace Sunday night against Madison Bumgarner.

Freese followed his World Series heroics with the best season of his career in 2012, in which he played 100 regular-season games for the first time ever and set a career high with an OPS of .839. So a second-inning NLCS homer might be a little more to be expected this year.

But that still marks his 24th and 25th RBI in 85 postseason at-bats, which puts him on a pretty impressive pace. The Cardinals have a lot of work left to do in this game, let alone the rest of the NLCS, but David Freese has, once more, gotten them off to a pretty good start.

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Yadi, Buster Posey in this week's big match-up

Buster Posey will win the MVP, and he probably should. But Yadier Molina deserves a look.

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Dugout Abbey Checks In Before Game One

Before Game One of the NLCS, the Cardinals get together to remember how they got here.

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Pete Kozma, bringing up BAbip

Pete Kozma knows how to reach sabermetricians' cold, cold hearts: By basically talking about himself like they do.

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The Curious Case of Corporal Daniel Descalso, USMC

Have you ever thought Daniel Descalso looks like a World War Two vet? If you did, you have a very keen eye.

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