Cardinals defeat Giants to take commanding 3-1 lead in NLCS

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The Cardinals are just one win away from joining the Tigers in the World Series.

Behind an excellent pitching performance from Adam Wainwright and a relentless attack from their offense, the Cardinals defeated the Giants 8-3 tonight and now own a commanding 3-1 series lead in the NLCS.

Wainwright had his curveball working tonight and limited the Giants to just four hits while striking out five and walking none. His only mistake was a solo homer by Hunter Pence in the second inning. He threw an efficient 70 out of 95 pitches for strikes before Fernando Salas pitched the final two innings.

The Giants were hoping Tim Lincecum’s success in the bullpen would lead to a big start tonight, but it just didn’t happen. He struggled with his command in the first inning en route to giving up two runs and was knocked out of the ballgame in the fifth. The Cardinals scored two runs in the sixth and seventh innings to put the game out of reach. Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday and Jon Jay all knocked in two runs apiece.

The Giants aren’t done, but it’s tough to have much confidence going into tomorrow night. Why? Well, Barry Zito will be tasked with keeping the Giants’ season alive after giving up two runs on four hits and four walks in just 2 2/3 innings in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Reds. Madison Bumgarner, who was banished to the bullpen following his Game 1 clunker, will be there to back Zito up if he makes another early exit. Lance Lynn, who gave up four runs over 3 2/3 innings in Game 1, will try to make sure the series doesn’t make it back to San Francisco.

Brewers’ and Dodgers’ benches empty after Manny Machado and Jesús Aguilar get into it

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The Brewers and Dodgers haven’t had much action in Game 4 of the NLCS, bringing a 1-1 game through 10 innings and about four and a half hours. We finally got something to get the blood pumping, though, when Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado and Brewers first baseman Jesús Aguilar exchanged some words with each other, prompting both teams’ benches to spill onto the field.

With one out, Machado grounded a 3-1, 95 MPH fastball to shortstop Orlando Arcia, who made an easy throw to first base to complete the out. Machado, running the play out, dragged his left leg, slamming it into Aguilar’s leg as he crossed the bag, causing himself to stumble momentarily. Machado went back and jawed at Aguilar like it was his fault.

Machado has not had the best press in the NLCS. He failed to run out a grounder in Game 2, then made a couple of slides in Game 3 that attempted to interfere with Arcia at the second base bag. He was called for interference on the second one. Machado hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt for his actions tonight.

It’s difficult to imagine Machado’s behavior during the NLCS will affect his windfall as a free agent this offseason, but he’s proving to be somewhat of a distraction for a team trying to get back to the World Series. And that’s not good.