ST. LOUIS – One more win and another bunch of wild-card Cardinals will get their chance to repeat.
Adam Wainwright threw seven innings of four-hit ball and St. Louis roughed up Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants, 8-3, on Thursday night, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead in the National League Championship Series.
The defending World Series champions can wrap up their second pennant in a row with a victory at home tonight in Game 5.
Pitcher Lance Lynn will start for the Cardinals, opposed by Giants left-hander Barry Zito. A Cardinals win would set up a 2006 World Series rematch with Detroit.
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Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Yadier Molina had two RBI apiece to lead a 12-hit outburst by a team that batted just .198 through the first three games of the series.
“They had their backs against the wall against the Reds and won three in a row, so we’ve still got our work cut out for us and this series is by no means over,” Holliday said.
Lincecum was a bust in his first postseason start since the World Series clincher over Texas in 2010, giving up four runs in 42/3 innings.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner out of the University of Washington earned a shot based on nearly spotless relief work earlier in the postseason but reverted to regular-season form, when he was 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA.
Wainwright was a glorified cheerleader while rehabbing from elbow reconstruction during the Cardinals’ improbable title drive last fall after earning the wild card on the final day and then upsetting the Phillies, Brewers and Rangers to allow manager Tony La Russa to retire on top.
Under rookie manager Mike Matheny, the 88-win Cardinals were the final team to qualify this year, too.
Wainwright bounced back from a poor outing in Game 5 of the division series against Washington, striking out five and walking none for his first postseason victory as a starter. The lone damage against him came on Hunter Pence’s first homer and RBI of the postseason, a second-inning clout estimated at 451 feet that soared over the visitor’s bullpen into the left-center bleachers to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 2-1.
Just 12 pitches in, the Cardinals had two hits and the lead. Jay opened the first with a single, Matt Carpenter walked on four pitches and Holliday singled up the middle for the lead. Allen Craig tacked on a sacrifice fly.
“I’ve just been working on my swing and I felt more comfortable tonight,” Holliday said.
Lincecum escaped trouble in the second after issuing two more walks, one of them on five pitches to Wainwright. The Cardinals missed a chance to add on after Pete Kozma reached on third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s fielding error to open the inning when he was thrown out trying to steal.
Lincecum had retired eight in a row before running into trouble in the fifth.
Carpenter doubled off the top of the wall in right-center with one out. He held up until Holliday’s single fell in front of center fielder Angel Pagan, but third base coach Jose Oquendo aggressively waved Carpenter home.
The relay from shortstop Brandon Crawford was in time, but short-hopped catcher Hector Sanchez and Carpenter scored on a headfirst slide to make it 3-1 and Holliday went to second on the play. Molina’s two-out RBI single made it 4-1 and was the knockout blow for Lincecum.