The revitalized St Louis Cardinals made full use of their bullpen to stave off a San Francisco Giants fightback for a 6-4 road victory in the opening game of the National League Championship Series on Sunday.
The defending World Series champions had rallied from a 6-0 deficit in a Game Five decider against Washington on Friday but this time, their own six-run lead was threatened before they held on to draw first blood in the best-of-seven series.
St Louis called on six relievers, who combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings to finish off a game that had looked to be slipping away when starter Lance Lynn allowed four runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Earlier, David Freese blasted a two-run homer in the second and Carlos Beltran added a two-run shot in the top of the fourth before the Giants, much to the delight of San Francisco's boisterous AT&T Park crowd, mounted their comeback attempt.
The Giants strung together four consecutive two-out hits in their scoring inning, including Gregor Blanco's two-run triple, to rally within two runs but they were unable to make further inroads against the stingy St Louis relievers.
Game Two is in San Francisco on Monday.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)