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Archive for October, 2012

ST. LOUIS — On a night when Adam Wainwright delivered a redemptive performance, the Cardinals’ offense, with a display of its depth, pushed the defending World Series champions to within one game of a return trip to the Fall Classic.

Driven largely by the middle-of-the-order hitters who had been so silent all series, the Cards grabbed an 8-3 victory over the Giants to push their National League Championship Series lead to 3-1. By taking two straight games at home, the Redbirds have the chance to secure a rematch of the 2006 World Series without having to leave town.

Busch Stadium, which was filled to capacity on Thursday night, will host Game 5 on Friday (7 p.m. CT on FOX). It will be the first of three chances the Cardinals get to earn a tango with the Tigers, who captured the American League pennant by completing a sweep of the Yankees earlier in the day.

“We want to wrap it up just to wrap it up,” David Freese said afterward. “But if you can do that here with these fans and with your family and friends, even better.”

The Cards have positioned themselves well for the task, too. While San Francisco had to run through five relievers, St. Louis’ only call was to Fernando Salas. That gave Jason Motte, in particular, much-desired rest a night after completing a two-inning save.

Carlos Beltran earned a night off, too, as manager Mike Matheny never needed to ask his ailing outfielder (strained left knee) for a lift off the bench. Rather, the lifting was done collectively by a group of eight position players that tallied more hits in seven innings (12) than they had in the last two games (11) combined.

“When this lineup is getting contributions from everybody, it’s tough to get through,” Daniel Descalso said. “You have Matt [Holliday] and Allen [Craig] and Yadi [Molina] and David … they may go a few games, but they’re not going to go more than a few without doing something.”

Surprisingly, the bunch had gone several.

In addition to racing out to a 2-1 series advantage without the backing of a dominant pitching performance, the Cardinals had seen little life from the team’s most potent bats. Holliday, Craig and Molina — the club’s Nos. 3-4-5 hitters — had combined for five total bases and not a lone RBI in the first three games of this series.

“Things,” cautioned Craig, “can turn around in a heartbeat.”

And my, they did.

On Thursday, the trio had a combined five hits and drove home five runs, including all four scored off Giants starter Tim Lincecum. The once-dominant San Francisco starter couldn’t make it a full five innings.

“We know he’s coming off pitching well in the ‘pen lately,” Matt Carpenter said of Lincecum. “But at the same time, we know there was a little bit of a doubt with his command lately. We wanted to make sure that we did a good job of making him throw strikes and getting our pitch to hit.”

Sure enough, Lincecum labored from the get-go, allowing the first three batters he faced in a 25-pitch first inning to reach. The first of Holliday’s two RBI singles staked the Cards to the early advantage. Craig followed with a sacrifice fly.

Lincecum settled down and into what then looked to be shaping up as a pitchers’ duel. Aside from a mistake-turned-homer by Hunter Pence in the second, Wainwright was cruising as well. Both he and Lincecum had retired seven straight as the Cardinals came to bat in the fifth.

By the time the frame ended, the outcome would never again be in question.

Holliday and Molina delivered run-scoring hits in the fifth. Jon Jay’s double plated two more in the sixth. Molina and Pete Kozma completed the piling on with seventh-inning RBI hits.

“It was good that we broke through with some big hits and some RBI situations,” Holliday said. “It’s never easy, particularly in the postseason, to get those runs home. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.”

It was the perfect showcase of the lineup’s depth. Each starting position player had at least one hit. Five spots in the lineup contributed an RBI. Seven players scored.

And it all provided a plenty substantial cushion for Wainwright, who, a week ago, was left to beg his teammates for a bailout. Having lasted only 2 1/3 innings in a win-or-go-home Division Series game against the Nationals, Wainwright spoke with little reservation about how excited he was for a second chance.

Starting his first career LCS game, the right-hander snapped a string of shaky starting performances by Cards pitchers. The first St. Louis starter to pitch six innings this series, Wainwright actually finished seven. He allowed four hits, Pence’s 451-foot blast the only costly one.

“It was very satisfying,” Wainwright said. “A little part of me wanted to reprove it to myself that I could go out there and pitch great when we need me to. I knew I could. I was very confident in my ability and my stuff. I just needed to trust it and go out there and make pitches.”

Wainwright dealt with multiple baserunners in an inning only once. That threat ended swiftly, as he recorded a pair of outs to strand runners on the corners in the sixth. Wainwright would wrap up the next inning with a pitch count of 96. Of those, 70 were strikes.

“I actually think Wainwright today was as good as you’re going to see,” Pence said. “He was spot-on with his location. Obviously, you can hit it, but you also have to find a hole.”

The win was Wainwright’s first as a postseason starter. He’ll have a chance for a second only if the Cardinals advance one round deeper.

The good news for Wainwright is this: Since the best-of-seven LCS format was introduced, 12 of the 14 teams to hold a 3-1 NLCS advantage have gone to the World Series.

“I don’t know if it’s really sunk in yet what we’ve accomplished so far,” Carpenter said. “I think it’s partly because we’re still focused on making sure we go out and win this next game. But it’s a great spot to be in. We’re looking forward to coming here tomorrow and trying to finish this off.”

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It’s Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal (64) works during the sixth inning of Game 3 of baseball's National League championship series against the San Francisco Giants, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(St. Louis) (AP) – Matt Carpenter hit a two-run homer after subbing for an injured Carlos Beltran and the St. Louis Cardinals chased Matt Cain before a 3 1/2-hour rain delay in the seventh inning of a 3-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night for a 2-1 NL championship series lead.

Kyle Lohse worked around a season-worst five walks in 5 2-3 innings. Mitchell Boggs struck out Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt with two on to end the seventh. Jason Motte earned the first two-inning save of his career to reward what remained of a sellout crowd of 45,850 – perhaps a third – that stuck around for a game that lasted 3 hours, 2 minutes, about a half-hour shorter than the delay.

Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro had two hits and a clean game in the field, two days after Matt Holliday rammed him breaking up a double-play ball. Manager Bruce Bochy had said there would be no retaliation, and Game 3 was collision-free.

The big winners in a delay that featured about a half-hour without rain while officials awaited a second, smaller front: Beer vendors, by a single out. Alcohol sales are cut off after the seventh inning in all stadiums.

Cain lost for the second time this postseason, giving up three runs on five hits in 6 1-3 innings. The Giants, who entered the game batting just .217 in the postseason, were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.

The Cardinals snapped the Giants’ five-game road winning streak in the postseason, three of them this year. Game 4 is in St. Louis on Thursday night, with Adam Wainwright pitching for the Cardinals. Tim Lincecum will start for the Giants.

Carlos Beltran limped to the trainer’s room, taking the St. Louis Cardinals’ biggest clutch October bat with him. Beltran strained his left knee running out a double-play ball in the first and the Cardinals said he was day to day.

Turns out they had the perfect substitute.

Carpenter followed Jon Jay’s two-out single with a homer off Cain in his first at-bat of the NLCS.

Beltran is batting .400 in the postseason with three homers and six RBIs, but Carpenter had big numbers against Cain. He was 4 for 4 for his career against Cain, all four of the regular-season hits for singles.

This one was a much bigger deal, a drive on a 2-2 count that soared over the Cardinals bullpen in right field and was estimated at 421 feet.

Carpenter entered the game 1 for 5 in the postseason, all five pinch-hit appearances. He had an RBI single in the wild-card playoff against Atlanta. He got 14 of his 46 RBIs in April as the primary sub at first base for injured Lance Berkman.

On Tuesday, Carpenter was among a group of seldom-used hitters trying to stay sharp by facing Jake Westbrook in a simulated game. The rest of the team had the day off.

Umpires called for the tarpaulin right after the Cardinals made it 3-1 on a run-scoring single by Shane Robinson and Cain was lifted.

It was the third game delayed by rain this postseason and a fourth, Game 4 of the Yankees-Tigers ALCS, was postponed later Wednesday night. Two games between the Yankees and Orioles in Baltimore began late because of inclement weather.

The rain intensified less than 10 minutes after the field was covered, chasing most fans who had remained in their seats up to that point. Spotters for the National Weather Service reported 60 mph winds in nearby St. Charles County.

A highlight of the delay was a Pac-Man style chase. Ushers pursued and finally apprehended a fan who jumped out of the stands to get a baseball near the warning track in left field, and then jutted in and out of aisles to elude several ushers who had been closing in.

The storm had been widely anticipated. Some forecasts called for a 70 percent chance of rain. Both managers fielded questions Tuesday and Wednesday about whether the probability of precipitation would affect their selection of the starting pitcher.

Both said they couldn’t worry about the weather, and the starters combined for 208 pitches.

“I’ve been caught before where you try to predict what’s going to happen with the rain and started,” Bochy said. “Just a couple years ago I started a pitcher thinking the same thing and it didn’t rain for four or five innings. Then I put my starter in and then it started raining, and so it came back to bite me.”

Lohse is 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA this postseason despite uncustomary control woes. He was among the majors’ best control pitchers this season, averaging 1.62 walks per nine innings.

The Giants entered 70-22 when scoring first, including the postseason, and took the lead in the third on Pablo Sandoval’s run-scoring groundout after leadoff hits by Angel Pagan and Scutaro, whose legs looked just fine on an opposite-field double flared just over first baseman Allen Craig’s glove.

Beltran leads all players with eight extra-base hits in the 2012 playoffs and is a career .375 hitter in the postseason, highest ever among players with a minimum of 100 at-bats.

             PARK HILLS, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team continued its domination Region 16 play Tuesday evening, Oct. 16, defeating the Mineral Area College (MAC) Cardinals in straight sets 25-13, 25-16, 25-16 at Park Hills, Mo.


The Grizzlies, 20-5 overall and currently ranked ninth nationally in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll, are now 3-0 in region play and have one region match remaining, a 6 p.m. contest Oct. 25 against Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo.  Jefferson remains at 2-1 and MAC is 0-4 in the region.


“I couldn’t be more pleased with this region road win,” Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said.  “We went into their place, where they always play well, and we continued what we started when we first met them here on Sept. 25.  That match, when we dropped the second set, was a light-bulb moment for us.  We began to play the game the way we needed to, mentally, and we’ve continued to feed off that win.  To take it into last night’s match and keep it rolling is big.”


The Grizzlies and Cardinals traded points for about the first 10 points of each set, but the Grizzlies were able to maintain their focus and physical play finish out the sets strong.  “We played every phase of the game well.  We took great swings, we dug the ball well, we passed it well and we served it well,” Wiedemann said.


The coach pointed out the Grizzlies only had 11 hitting errors for the match and averaged 17 digs per set.  “If we can consistently do this, it will help us play at a high level against good teams,” she said.


Leading the way offensively was freshman outside attacker Helena Peric with 12 kills off 25 attempts with two errors for an attacking percentage of .400.  Freshman middle attacker Torika Baleilekutu followed with 10 kills off 15 attempts with one error for an attacking percentage of .600.


“Helena is still playing consistently.  She provides us that stability,” Wiedemann said.  “Torika was able to get back into the groove.  We worked on fundamentals Monday in practice, and I think that helped her.  She took better swings and had fewer errors.”


Freshman setter Sarah Stretch led the team in assists with 40, while Baleilekutu led the team in passing rating with 2.9.


Defensively, the Grizzlies were paced by sophomore outside attacker Taylor Swayzer, who led the team in digs with 14, and Baleilekutu, who led the team in blocks with four.  “Taylor was so solid defensively last night, especially with the off-blocker defense.  Nothing hit the floor.  She frustrated everyone.  The same with (freshman libero) Victoria Williams.  She was really digging the ball.  All six of our players had at least two digs per set,” Wiedemann said.


“Running offense out of our defense is a big deal, and we’re doing better at that, and when we establish our middle, like last night, it’s going to open up everything else offensively,” she added.


Next on the schedule for the Grizzlies is a 6 p.m. contest Friday, Oct. 19, against NJCAA Division II powerhouse Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan.  “This will be a tough road test for us.  They’re a good defensive team.  Anything can happen when a team is playing good defense.  We will have to bring the same thing to the floor,” Wiedemann warned.


As for the final Region 16 match set for Oct. 25 against Jefferson, the coach said, “This is going to be a big game.  We need to go into it like we have to win it to be the top seed in the region.  We want to put ourselves in that position.”


For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, including a copy of the 2012 schedule, visit the team’s website at


–        News release prepared by University Communications 

Here’s the latest Grizz Talk from Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Weidemann:

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Warrensburg Basketball Jamboree

October 14, 2012


Grizzlies lost to SW Illinois 31-43

Grizzlies defeated Fort Scott KS 45-44

Grizzlies lost to SE Nebraska 44-48

First place & Big Bass -Troy Moser, & Randy     Ziggler.  The team won $1125.00 for 1st place and $300.00 for Big     Bass. Connor Cochran (left) is a WPMS Beta Club OfficerSecond Place – Marty Fox and Scotty Fox.  The     team won $675 for second place.   Marisa     Butler(left) is a WPMS Beta Club Officer

Third Place – Dewayne French and Micah Tindall.      The team won $450.00 for third place.    Travis     Rhoads (left) is a WPMS Beta Club Officer.

Fourth Place – Michael Welch and Phillip     McFarland.  The team won $315.00 for 4th place.

Fifth Place – William Davis and Bruce Chandler.      The team won $225.00 for fifth place.

Smallest Stringer – Kathy Parrish and Don Parrish.      The team won $100.00



Total Weight in pounds

Troy Moser & Randy Ziggler                          19.89                   and Big Bass 6.40

Scottie Fox & Marty Fox                               15.23

Dewayne French & Micah Tindall                12.60

Phillip McFarland & Michael Welch            11.71

William Davis & Bruce Chandler                  11.71

Fred Hale & Bryan Wilson                             11.63


ST. LOUIS — A cursory look at baseball’s final four would suggest that outspending others is still the simplest path to a championship, as the four teams remaining in the postseason all have payrolls ranking in the game’s top nine.

But whereas the other three clubs have been built predominantly through free-agent spending, the Cardinals remain very much the exception. This is an organization that supplements home-grown talent with that from the outside rather than the other way around.

It’s the reason why, of the 25 players on the playoff roster, 17 were developed from start to finish exclusively in the Cardinals’ farm system. To provide perspective, consider that the Giants have only nine such players. The Yankees have eight; the Tigers have nine.

“For us it’s the way we can have sustained success,” general manager John Mozeliak said. “If we have to start swimming in the deep end of that free-agent market, it’s just not a place we want to be. Strategically, we understood years ago that we had to produce players internally to be successful. That’s not to say that we won’t go to the free-agent market and that we can’t augment that way, but it does not have to be our oxygen to survive.”

Of the Cardinals’ eight starting position players, five were drafted by the organization. The group is so young, too, that only one of the five has even accrued three years of playing time. Of the three who started their careers elsewhere, two (Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran) joined the organization via free agency. The third, David Freese, was acquired when he was still a Minor Leaguer.

All five bench players were drafted and developed internally. Of the 12 pitchers on the roster, seven ascended through the Cardinals’ system.

“That has always been the goal of our process, to develop championship-caliber players to play on championship teams,” farm director John Vuch said. “When you see something like that come to fruition, it is rewarding. We are a midmarket club, so there is a necessity to develop our own players.”

The Cardinals’ depth was tested greatly this season, during which the club had to move a player to the disabled list 14 times. When Chris Carpenter went down in Spring Training, the Cardinals stayed inside the organization by assigning his rotation spot to Lance Lynn. The same was true in June, when Joe Kelly was the answer to Jaime Garcia’s absence.

Former first-round pick Pete Kozma took over for Rafael Furcal when the veteran shortstop injured his elbow in August. Two rounds after the Cards selected Kozma in the 2007 Draft, they took Daniel Descalso, who has since emerged as Kozma’s middle-infield partner.

The team’s best bench player, Matt Carpenter, came out of the 2009 Draft, the same Draft that produced Kelly, Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal. The latter two have emerged as key pieces of the bullpen after spending the majority of the season starting in the Minors.

“We had to throw some younger players out there quicker than I think any of us envisioned,” Mozeliak said, “but how they’ve taken to it is impressive. It just shows you how good they really are. Like Joe Kelly: To come up here and do what he did when we were desperate for a starter was very impressive. For a guy like a Rosenthal, who was basically winning the [low Class A] Midwest Championship last year, he is now thrust onto the biggest stage and is handling it with robust success.”

That 2009 Draft also landed Matt Adams, whose midseason contributions helped the Cardinals cover the simultaneous absences of Lance Berkman and Allen Craig.

In fact, only twice this year did the Cardinals go outside the organization to address a need. The club did so first in mid-July, signing left-hander Brian Fuentes for the bullpen, but Fuentes’ stay lasted a mere six appearances before he left the club due to personal reasons.

The other instance was in the acquisition of Edward Mujica, the only player the Cardinals nabbed at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. In that case, though, the farm system still played a role, as it was the Marlins’ interest in Minor League infielder Zack Cox that helped the Cardinals pull off a trade that has since stabilized the bullpen.

“When you have a strong farm system, you certainly have assets that other teams will find interest in,” Mozeliak said. “I’ve said before, my goal is not to break that up. That is why we have been as successful as we have, because we have been reluctant to move key talent below. But there are times when you have to understand that you have to be willing to move talent to get talent.”

The Cardinals’ pipeline remains deep, with five Minor Leaguers cracking’s most recent list of the Top 100 prospects. The incoming talent will continue to help the organization sustain losses and departures, setting up the Cardinals to thrive within this business model for the long-term.

“I think the farm system is as good now as it has ever been since I have been with the organization,” Vuch said. “It is encouraging. Not only do we have so many guys contributing now, but we have a good amount of guys in reserve who can eventually come up and help out.”

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It’s Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Grizzlies win own invitational tournament


            WEST PLAINS, Mo. – The Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Volleyball team continued its winning streak this past weekend by capturing first place in the Colton’s Steak House & Grill/Holiday Inn Express Grizzly Invitational Tournament at the West Plains Civic Center.


The Grizzlies (19-5), who have won their last 16 matches and are ranked ninth in the current National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) poll, defeated New Mexico Military Academy of Roswell 25-15, 25-20, 25-23 in Saturday’s championship match after winning all three of their pool play matches.  On Friday, Oct. 12, the Grizzlies defeated Southeastern Community College, Burlington, Iowa, 25-10, 25-11, 25-7 and Barton County College, Great Bend, Kan., 25-20, 25-11, 25-18, and on Saturday, they came back to defeat Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kan., 23-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-18.


New Mexico placed second, followed by Johnson County in third, Wallace State College of Hanceville, Ala., in fourth, Seward County Community College of Liberal, Kan., fifth, Barton sixth, Jefferson College of Hillsboro, Mo., seventh, and Southeastern eighth.


All-tournament team honorees included Grizzlies Helena Peric and Magda Zietek, Agatha Gibbons and Emily Castleman of New Mexico, Kim Blusher of Johnson County and Erica Baker of Wallace State.  Libero of the tournament was Grizzly Victoria Williams.


“We won games differently this weekend,” Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann said.  “The teams we should have dominated, we did.  With Johnson County, we needed to be under that kind of pressure of dropping a set then winning the next three.  We played New Mexico a month ago at Hutchinson, and they’re playing better now than they did then, but we handled them better this past weekend than we did a month ago.  It’s nice to see that we’re making improvements.  We also handled some things better mentally this weekend than we have in the past, and it’s good to see that kind of improvement, too.”


Johnson County, one of the NJCAA’s top Division 2 programs, proved to be the Grizzlies’ biggest challenge.  “They were ready to play, but we were, too.  They won the first set, but we started picking it up defensively, and that made a huge difference in the rest of the match,” Wiedemann said.


“Johnson County is one of the top D2 programs in the country year in and year out,” the coach continued.  “They’ve won a couple of national championships in the past few years, and they play the game well.  I knew going into the match they’d be a very good defensive team that would force us to play good defense and take good swings.  We definitely had to work for that win.”


Wiedemann thought the Grizzlies played very well in the championship match.  “We didn’t have to dig the ball much because we earned some good points on kills, on our blocking and from aces.  We kind of got in their head, and the rallies didn’t last a long time.  We were siding out with one swing, and they were, too, to some degree.  They played better in the second set, but it wasn’t as close as the score indicated.


The coach also said she was pleased with the consistency shown by her team, especially her hitters.  Freshman outside attacker Helena Peric led the team in kills with 51, aces with five and points earned with 57.5, but the team’s four other hitters weren’t far behind.  Sophomore middle attacker Magda Zietek had 32 kills and led the team in attacking percentage with .429.  Sophomore right side attacker Candyce Alexander had 30 kills, sophomore outside attacker Taylor Swayzer had 28 kills and freshman middle attacker Torika Baleilekutu had 24 kills.


“Helena led us in points earned, kills and aces, but the other four hitters were very consistent in their production,” Wiedemann said.  “Helena is playing at a great level right now, but it’s something any of the hitters can do in any given match.  Taylor did a couple of weeks ago, and Torika has been very efficient the past few weeks.  Magda had her most consistent showing to date this past weekend.  The more she plays, the more consistent she becomes.  She had very few errors, took care of the ball, and ran the slide well, which we need because it opens things up offensively.”


The coach also praised freshman setter Sarah Stretch for “making our hitters look good.  There were so many times I’d look out there and see what I thought was an out-of-system ball, but she made it work.  We’re not having to give up free balls, and as we move forward, that’s such an important part of helping our hitters take good swings.  Sarah continues to distribute the ball well and gives everyone a chance to take swings.”


Stretch led the team in assists with 152, while Baleilekutu and Zietek led the team in blocks with 5.5 each.  Swayzer paced the team in digs with 38, followed by Williams with 37.  “Victoria continues to get better as the season goes along, which is great,” Wiedemann said.  “She is an aggressive player who has become more patient with the ball.  The more she plays aggressively but patiently the better we are going to be for it.  It’s fun to watch a libero who has a killer instinct.”


Wiedemann said she would like to thank Colton’s and Holiday Inn for their support of the tournament.  “We received so many good compliments from our out-of-town visitors expressing how well they were taken care of by our sponsors.  They really enjoyed their stay here,” the coach said.


The Grizzlies will be on the road this week facing Region 16 rival Mineral Area College at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, in Park Hills, Mo., and Johnson County at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, in Overland Park.  “Tuesday is a big region match.  Park Hills can be a tough place to play, in terms of atmosphere.  Right now we’re undefeated in the region, and we need to walk out of there undefeated,” Wiedemann said.  “Johnson County is well coached, and they’ve got some athletes who can flat out play.  They, too, are tough at home.  We’re going to have to not take anything for granted and go in there and take care of business.”


For more information about the Grizzly Volleyball team, including a copy of the 2012 schedule, visit the team’s website at


Courtney Cox

West Plains High School Senior Courtney Cox made a hole-in-one today at the state golf tournament at Dalhousie Country Club in Cape Girardeau, MO.


Cox carded the hole-in-one on hole number 13, which is a 132 yard par 3

SAN FRANCISCO — Manager Mike Matheny gave the directive to bullpen coach Dyar Miller, who summoned Joe Kelly to join him in a jog to the ‘pen.

A once-seemingly safe six-run St. Louis lead had already shrunk to two, and Lance Lynn was giving little indication that he was about to stop a surging San Francisco offense. And so, as Lynn faced pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff — a batter he’d eventually walk — Kelly rushed through his warmup sequence.

Kelly had time for about 10 fastballs and another five offspeed offerings before he was jogging again, this time to the AT&T Park mound. Wondering himself if he had had ample time to prepare, Kelly — with an assist from a diving Daniel Descalso — closed the inning, setting off a stellar bullpen stand that ensured the Cardinals would exit Sunday with a 6-4 win to open the National League Championship Series.

“As young as they are, I look at their demeanor, and that’s the coolest thing about this,” said David Freese, speaking specifically of Kelly and fellow rookie reliever Trevor Rosenthal, who also came up clutch in Sunday’s game. “They get on that bump with 50,000 people roaring at them, and they don’t care.”

Indeed, in a game that opened with the Cards racing out to a six-run lead, it took a boost by the bullpen to pluck home-field advantage away from the Giants. The same bullpen that posted a pedestrian 3.90 ERA during the regular season has now allowed only six earned runs in 30 postseason innings.

That’s after six relievers combined to toss 5 1/3 shutout innings behind Lynn on Sunday.

“We’ve got a good bullpen, a strong bullpen, and we have to be ready,” Edward Mujica said. “We have to be ready in different situations, no matter what situations. If the starters go four or five, just try to pick them up.”

The needed pick-me-up came unexpectedly, as it appeared early that the defending World Series champs were going to cruise. The Cardinals took no time hushing the San Francisco crowd, and they chased left-hander Madison Bumgarner from his start before he could finish four innings.

Freese’s two-run homer — his first postseason long ball since the iconic blast he sent over the center-field wall in the 2011 World Series — gave St. Louis the early advantage.

“We were ready for mistakes,” said Freese, whose six postseason home runs are tied for the third most in franchise history. “Coming in here, we were wanting to get a lead early.”

The bottom of the Cards’ lineup then sparked a four-run fourth.

Surprising postseason contributors Descalso and Pete Kozma delivered consecutive one-out doubles. Jon Jay extended the inning with a two-out, two-strike RBI single. Carlos Beltran, whose career made a brief stop in San Francisco last season, then drilled a 3-2 slider into the stands.

At the time, Beltran joined Albert Pujols and Babe Ruth as the only players with at least 14 homers and a .325 batting average in the postseason. It was his third home run in seven playoff games this month.

“I’m just really enjoying myself, honestly,” Beltran said. “Right now, I’m seeing the ball well. … I’m not trying to do too much, good things are happening. I feel good about that.”

With Lynn having held the Giants hitless through three innings, a six-run cushion seemed plenty substantial. But the club that overcame that same deficit to send Washington to an early winter endured a similar scare from San Francisco. Before the fourth inning ended, the Giants had chased Lynn from the game and climbed back to within two.

They did it with four consecutive two-out hits, including a two-run triple by Gregor Blanco and a subsequent RBI double by Brandon Crawford. It wasn’t until after Crawford’s knock that the bullpen stirred.

“I threw a lot of fastballs early, and then they started jumping on it and got a lot of big hits in a row,” Lynn said. “Before I knew it, they had four runs. I wasn’t able to make as quick an adjustment as they did.”

When Lynn walked Huff, Matheny made his move.

“His fastball looked good, but when he was working behind in the count, it serves into a team like the Giants’ hand,” Matheny said. “And they’ve got an explosive offense and made a strong run and put Lance in a hard spot.”

Descalso’s diving stop helped Kelly retire Angel Pagan and halt the inning, and a formidable line of arms took their turns from there. Not one of them buckled.

Rosenthal and lefty Marc Rzepczynski bridged the gap to the team’s three late-inning arms with scoreless appearances. Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and closer Jason Motte followed in similar fashion.

“Their bullpen’s pretty tough,” said Pagan. “That’s why we have to score some runs against their starters so we won’t have to face the nasty guys.”

The game ended with the ‘pen retiring 14 of the last 16 Giants hitters. That meant that, while down only by two, San Francisco managed to get the potential tying run to the plate only twice after the fifth.

The first came with Rosenthal on the mound in the sixth, and the 22-year-old powered his way past Pagan with six straight 99-mph fastballs. The Giants had one last gasp in the ninth, when Pagan singled with two out. Motte answered with a game-ending groundout.

“It’s contagious,” Motte said of the bullpen’s success. “Just like over the first couple of innings, the hitting was contagious.”

The Cardinals needed the nearly perfect bullpen stand, too, because San Francisco’s relievers were just as dominant, holding St. Louis hitless after the fourth. The combined 10 2/3 innings of scoreless relief from the two clubs set an LCS record.

It was the Cards, though, who rode the relief to a win, one that puts history on their side. Over the past 20 years, the club that won the first game of the NLCS has advanced to the World Series all but four times.

“People are going to look at the Cardinals and say, ‘Well, they only won 88 games and were the second Wild Card,'” said Lance Berkman. “But if we had this team for the entire season, we would have won 100 games easy. If we have a lead after five innings, you’re going to be facing five guys that throw 100 mph. That’s a tough task for any team to overcome.”

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It’s Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.