SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Carlos Beltran hit his 14th career postseason homer and David Freese also went deep as the St. Louis Cardinals took a 6-4 lead over the San Francisco Giants after six innings of the NL championship series opener on Sunday night.
Two nights after rallying from a 6-0 deficit to win the decisive Game 5 of the division series against Washington, the Cardinals found themselves trying to hold onto that same lead.
Freese hit a two-run homer in the second and Beltran followed with one in the fourth as the Cardinals knocked out Madison Bumgarner with six runs in 3 2-3 innings.
But Lance Lynn struggled to hold onto that lead in his first postseason start after 10 career relief appearances. Lynn, an 18-game winner in the regular season, moved into the rotation to take the place of Jaime Garcia, who was taken off division series roster with an injured left shoulder.
After starting the game with three hitless innings, Lynn ran into trouble with two outs and a runner on first in the fourth. Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt followed with singles to drive in San Francisco's first run. They both scored on Gregor Blanco's triple. Brandon Crawford followed with an RBI double to make it 6-4 and Lynn left after walking pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff.
Joe Kelly got out of the jam when second baseman Daniel Descalso made a diving stop of Angel Pagan's grounder up the middle.
This marked the first time since 1958 that the two most recent World Series champions met in the postseason. That year, the New York Yankees avenged a loss in 1957 to beat the Milwaukee Braves for the title. The Cardinals were involved the only other two times that happened, losing to the Yankees in the 1943 and '28 World Series.
Bumgarner breezed through a perfect first inning but ran into trouble in the second when Yadier 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.
That gave Freese 25 career RBIs in the postseason — tied with Molina for third most ever for the Cardinals. Only Albert Pujols (52) and Jim Edmonds (41) have more.
Bumgarner then couldn't make it out of the fourth. Descalso doubled and scored on Pete Kozma's double. Jon Jay added a two-out RBI single and Beltran ended Bumgarner's night with the homer.
George Kontos got out of the fourth and two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum pitched two hitless innings as he once again excelled in his new role out of the bullpen.
Giants fans didn't know if they would be back at the ballpark this year after watching their team fall behind 2-0 in their first-round series to Cincinnati when Bumgarner lost to the Reds exactly a week ago. But San Francisco made it to the NLCS by becoming the first team ever to win three straight road games after falling behind 2-0 in a best-of-five series.
The Cardinals may have had an even more improbably comeback to get back to the NLCS. St. Louis overcame a 6-0 deficit in Game 5 of the division series to Washington — the largest ever in a winner-take-all postseason game, according to STATS LLC. The Cardinals trailed 7-5 heading into the ninth inning before scoring four runs to keep their repeat hopes alive.
Both teams kept the same roster they ended with last round. The only change was at first-base coach for the Giants, where assistant batting coach Joe Lefebvre took over after Roberto Kelly was sidelined with a concussion after being hit in the head by a ball in batting practice Saturday.