Wainwright, Cards shut down Giants to take 3-1 lead in NLCS

Adam Wainwright stymied San Francisco over seven stellar innings on Thursday, as the St. Louis Cardinals pushed the Giants to the brink of elimination with an 8-3 triumph in Game 4 of a National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium.

Wainwright (1-0) was roughed up for six runs in only 2 1/3 innings in his Game 5 NLDS start against the Washington Nationals, but his teammates bailed him out by mounting one of the most improbable comebacks in division series history to advance to the NLCS.

The 31-year-old right-hander redeemed himself on Thursday, limiting the Giants to one run on four hits with five strikeouts and no walks to earn the victory.

"A little part of me wanted to really prove it to myself that I could go out there and pitch great when we need me to," Wainwright said of disappointing start in Game 5 of the NLDS. "I was very confident in my ability and my stuff, I just needed to trust it and go out there and make pitches and tonight I was able to execute."

Jon Jay, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina each registered two RBI, while Allen Craig and Pete Kozma added an RBI apiece for the defending champions, who look to claim their second straight NL pennant on Friday when they host Game 5.

Tim Lincecum (1-1) was knocked around in his first start of the postseason, giving up four runs on six hits and three walks over 4 2/3 frames.

Pablo Sandoval crushed a two-run homer in the ninth and Hunter Pence added a solo shot, but the Giants dropped consecutive road games for the first time since July 7-8 of this season.

San Francisco will turn to veteran left-hander Barry Zito to keep its season alive in Friday's Game 5, while Lance Lynn will toe the rubber for the Cardinals as they look to close out the series in front of their home crowd.

"You don't win as many games as he's won this year unless you are throwing the ball well and he's earned this," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Zito. "We have all the confidence in Barry."

Lincecum allowed just one earned run in 8 1/3 innings over three relief appearances this postseason, but the two-time Cy Young Award winner was touched up early in his first start since Sept. 30.

Jay led off the first with a screaming line drive into center field before Lincecum issued a four-pitch walk to Matt Carpenter, who got the start in place of Carlos Beltran after the right fielder strained his knee early in St. Louis' Game 3 victory.

Holliday then laced a single back up the middle to score Jay from second and put runners on the corners for Craig, who scorched a sacrifice fly into center field to plate Carpenter for a 2-0 lead.

The Giants cut the margin in half in the second as Pence belted a two-out blast into the left-field seats to give him his first extra base hit and RBI of the postseason.

The visitors threatened again in the third when Angel Pagan scorched a two-out triple, but Wainwright got Marco Scutaro to slap one back to the mound to leave the tying run stranded 90 feet away.

Both offenses fell silent from there until Carpenter's one-out double off the top of the wall in the fifth. Holliday then followed with a sinking line drive that a diving Pagan was unable to get his glove under.

Pagan handled the shorthop well and quickly got the ball to the cutoff man, who fired home in an attempt to catch Carpenter at the plate.

However, Hector Sanchez couldn't handle the shorthop on Brandon Crawford's throw and Carpenter slid in safely for a 3-1 St. Louis lead.

After Craig fanned, Molina smacked a single back up the middle to score Holliday from second and chase Lincecum from the contest.

George Kontos took over on the mound and grounded out David Freese to end the fifth, but issued back-to-back singles to start the sixth before Wainwright's sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third.

Jose Mijares then entered from the bullpen and Jay scorched the left-hander's fourth offering into the gap in right-center field to score Daniel Descalso and Kozma for a 6-1 advantage.

"It's nice to see when guys pick each other up, take advantage of those opportunities we had," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny remarked. "We had some big hits today...it was nice to see."

Wainwright retired the Giants in order in the seventh before Craig led off the bottom half with a single and came all the way around to score on Molina's double into the left-field corner.

After the next two hitters were retired, Molina moved to third on a wild pitch and then scored on Kozma's single to left field for an 8-1 advantage.

Fernando Salas replaced Wainwright to start the eighth and retired the Giants in order, but issued a leadoff double to Marco Scutaro in the ninth.

After Buster Posey grounded out, Sandoval launched the next pitch deep over the wall in right field to bring the Giants within 8-3, but Salas bounced back by grounding out Sanchez and popping out Pence to secure the victory.

Game Notes

It was the shortest start of the six starts made by Lincecum in his postseason career ... St. Louis had lost six straight Game 4s in NLCS play with their last win coming against Atlanta in 1996 ... The Cardinals are 25-1 when scoring six-plus runs at home in postseason play.