Wainwright out-pitches Lincecum, Cards take Game 4 and lead Series 3-1

Dilip Vishwanat

Adam Wainwright pitched seven solid innings, while Tim Lincecum got knocked out in the fifth. The Cardinals just kept on scoring, and finished with an 8-3 victory that pushes the Giants to the brink in the NLCS.

Well, that sure seemed like a mismatch.

Game 4 of the National League Championship Series featured a two-time Cy Young Award winner and a two-time serious Cy Young Award contender. But in Game 4, it was the contender, Adam Wainwright, who seriously out-pitched the two-time winner, Tim Lincecum. And so the St. Louis Cardinals beat the San Francisco Giants 8-3 and took a commanding three-games-to-one lead in this best-of-seven series, the winner advancing to the World Series and a date with the Detroit Tigers.

Lincecum got off to a shaky start, giving up a couple of runs in the bottom of the first inning. But San Francisco's Hunter Pence made the score 2-1 with a two-out homer in the top of the second. And Lincecum seemed to settle down, escaping a jam in the second and retiring all six batters he faced in the third and fourth.

He pitched himself into more trouble in the fifth, though. Jon Jay opened the frame with a ground-out, but Matt Carpenter -- in the lineup in place of the injured Carlos Beltrán -- drove a fastball off the center-field wall, just a foot or two shy of a home run. Matt Holliday followed with a single to center. Ángel Pagán made a nice play on the bounce, and made what looked like a perfect peg home, Carpenter dead to rights trying to score. But when second-string catcher Hector Sánchez couldn't corral the throw, Carpenter slid home safely and Holliday advanced to second.

Lincecum steadied himself and struck out Allen Craig. But when Yadier Molina drove a single into center field to plate Holliday and make the score 4-1, Lincecum was finished. He'd been left out of the postseason rotation because of his erratic performance all season long, then regained a slot with three fine relief appearances. But Game 4 reminded everyone of why Lincecum had lost his spot, and of his 5.18 ERA during the regular season.

The Cardinals weren't finished scoring, though. In the sixth, Jon Jay laced a two-run double off left-hander Jose Mijares, who'd just entered with the express purpose of retiring Jay. And in the seventh, Yadier Molina doubled home Allen Craig, and later scored on Pete Kozma's single.

Meanwhile, Wainwright had been cruising. After giving up Pence's homer in the second inning, Wainwright gave up only three hits and was in modest trouble just once. He left after seven innings and 96 pitches, but Fernando Salas took over and pitched a perfect eighth. Finally, in the ninth the Giants broke out. Marco Scutaro led off with a double down the left-field line; after Buster Posey grounded out, Pablo Sandoval hit a long homer to right field.

Salas recovered to retire Hector Sánchez on a dribbler to first base and Pence on a foul pop fly to end it.

Friday night in Game 5, the Giants will try to stave off elimination behind Barry Zito, with Lance Lynn starting for the Cardinals.

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