St. Louis took the opposite tact, racing out to a 6-0 lead early, then depending on its bullpen to hold on for a 6-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants in front of 42,534 at AT&T Park on Sunday in the NLCS opener.
Jason Motte, the last of seven Cardinals pitchers, closed out the victory. St. Louis relievers retired 12 straight Giants, and 14 of 15 from one out in the fifth, before Angel Pagan reached with a two-out single in the ninth.
Edward Mujica struck out the side in his one inning of work in the seventh, and he was awarded the victory. Mitchell Boggs enjoyed a perfect eighth with two popups and a groundout.
In the ninth, Motte retired Brandon Crawford on a fly to center, pinch hitter Hector Sanchez on a pop to left and Marco Scutaro on a grounder to first base after Pagan singled to right-center.
St. Louis scored four times in the fourth to chase Giants starter Madison Bumgarner.
Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma hit consecutive groundball doubles into the right and left field corners, respectively, with one out for the first run. Kozma stole third and scored when Jon Jay touched Bumgarner for a soft single to center with two outs on an 0-2 count.
Bumgarner got two strikes on Carlos Beltran, but Cardinals' No. 2 hitter picked on a low fastball and drove it deep into the left field stands for a two-run homer and 6-0 lead.
The Giants, held without a hit by Cardinals starter Lance Lynn through three, batted around against the right-hander to answer with four runs of their own in the fourth, and all of the scoring came with two outs.
Brandon Belt's broken bat single to center scored Scutaro from third. Gregor Blanco tripled to right-center to plate Hunter Pence and Belt. Crawford doubled to right to score Blanco, chasing Lynn.
Descalso's diving play up the middle at second led to a force play to strand the tying runs.
San Francisco left two runners on an inning later, too, as St. Louis relievers Joe Kelly and Mark Rzepczynski thwarted the threat.
The Cardinals struck for two runs in the second off of Bumgarner, who labored through a 30-pitch frame after setting the visitors down 1-2-3 in the first on 11 pitches (the first seven of which were strikes).
St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina laced a one-out, two-strike single to center. David Freese then launched a 3-2 fastball into the left-center-field bleachers to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. Freese's first postseason homer of 2012 was his fourth career long ball in LCS play.
NOTES: Joe Lefebvre served as the Giants' first base coach in place of Roberto Kelly, who suffered a concussion Saturday when he was struck in the back of the head by a Busty Posey sinking line drive during batting practice on the team's off day. Kelly rested at home for Game 1. "I don't see him being out there at least these two games, if not longer," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. ... The winner of Game 1 of the NLCS has advanced to the World Series in 16 of the last 20 years. The 2011 champion Cardinals were one of the four teams to drop an NLCS Game 1 but rally to win the series. ... The Giants and Cardinals are meeting for the third time in LCS history. ... Tony Bennett performed "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch. ... St. Louis' Chris Carpenter is scheduled to oppose San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong in Monday's Game 2.