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Grading NLCS Game 4: Cardinals one win away

By C. Trent Rosecrans | Blogger
The St. Louis lineup made the difference in Game 4. (Getty Images)

Related: Dangerous Cards on the brink | Game 5 Preview: Barry Zito vs. Lance Lynn | Playoff Schedule

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals dominated Game 4 of the National League Championship Series and are on the verge of dominating the entire series, using an 8-3 victory on Thursday to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. St. Louis pounded out 12 hits and Adam Wainwright kept the Giants at bay.

Cardinals lineup: Each of the Cardinals starting position players recorded a hit, and even starting pitcher Adam Wainwright had a walk and a sacrifice, as the Cardinals put up eight runs on Giants pitchers. Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina woke up, going a combined 4 for 9 with four RBI after going 6 for 40 in their previous five games.

Angel Pagan: There weren't many bright spots for the Giants, but the center fielder did his best, going 2 for 4 with a triple and two outstanding defensive plays. Pagan stole extra bases with a leaping catch of Yadier Molina's third-inning drive and then made a diving stop on Matt Holliday's liner in the fifth. He did his part to turn that into an out, diving, keeping the ball in front of him and getting the ball into the infield quickly, even if shortstop Brandon Crawford and catcher Hector Sanchez were unable to turn it into an out at the plate. Pagan is 6 for 18 in the series against the Cardinals and his 11 total bases lead all Giants in the NLCS.

Tim Lincecum: Not a bad start for a guy who was pitching out of the bullpen since the start, but not a good start for a two-time Cy Young Award winner. Lincecum went 4 2/3 innings, allowed four runs on six hits, striking out three and walking three. He looked shaky in the first, giving up two runs and needing 25 pitches to get out of the inning, but after an error and two walks in the second, he retired eight in a row. But then the Matts -- Carpenter and Holliday -- got to him for a double, single and a run and then Yadier Molina finished Lincecum off with an RBI single.

Giants bullpen: For so much of this postseason, San Francisco has leaned on its bullpen, but with one of those bullpen guys elevated to starter, the Gaints pen gave up four runs, with George Kontos and Guillermo Mota giving up two runs each. Jeremy Affeldt also allowed an inherited runner to score in the seventh. Javier Lopez was the only Giants reliever not to give up a hit.

Middle of the Giants order: Bruce Bochy shook up the middle of his order for Game 4, moving Buster Posey up from fourth to third, putting Pablo Sandoval in the third spot after hitting fourth and inserting catcher Hector Sanchez to fifth in the lineup, displacing Hunter Pence. So how'd that work? The three went 1 for 12 with three strikeouts. The only hit was Sandoval's two-run homer in the ninth, when the Giants were already down by seven runs.

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