Tune in at 8:07 PM ET as the Giants take on the Cardinals in Game Five of the NLCS. Callum Hughson will be liveblogging for your enjoyment.
The St. Louis Cardinals are one game away from reaching back-to-back World Series for the first time since the NL championship series has been contested.
The league's most successful club is not sure whether slugger Carlos Beltran will be available, but it has the opportunity to close out the San Francisco Giants in Game 5 at home Friday night.
St. Louis took a 3-1 series lead with Thursday's 8-3 victory. The defending champion Cardinals last appeared in consecutive World Series when they won the title in 1967 and lost to the Detroit Tigers in 1968, and the AL champion Tigers would be their opponent this year.
The Giants, meanwhile, are in the familiar position of needing three straight wins to advance after being down 2-0 in their division series against Cincinnati.
The Cardinals batted .198 through the first three games of the NLCS before Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Yadier Molina had two RBIs apiece as part of a 12-hit attack. Rookie Matt Carpenter, replacing an injured Beltran in the lineup, went 1 for 3 with two runs scored after he hit a two-run homer in Wednesday's 3-1 victory.
Beltran, who has never played in the World Series, tweaked his left knee in Game 3. The slugger is 12 for 30 with three homers and six RBIs in the postseason.
Cleanup hitter Allen Craig moved to right field Thursday, with Carpenter playing first base.
San Francisco has totaled four runs in its two defeats at Busch Stadium. NL MVP candidate Buster Posey is 2 for 14 with no RBIs in this series, Hunter Pence is 2 for 15 with his lone RBI coming on his solo homer Thursday and Pablo Sandoval was 3 for 16 before a meaningless two-run homer in the ninth in Game 4.
Posey, Pence and Sandoval combined to go 1 for 5 with one walk in Game 1 against Lance Lynn (1-1, 8.59 ERA), who will try to fare better in his second career postseason start. Lynn lasted 3 2/3 innings and allowed four runs in the Cardinals' 6-4 victory Sunday.
Lynn made 14 postseason appearances out of the bullpen, including four this year, before that outing.
The right-hander went 8-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 12 home starts in the regular season. He won 18 regular-season games overall.
After watching Tim Lincecum allow four runs over 4 2/3 innings Thursday, San Francisco probably doesn't know what to expect out of another former Cy Young Award winner in Barry Zito (0-0, 6.75) one night later.
Zito won his final seven regular-season starts, but lasted 2 2/3 innings and allowed two runs and four walks Oct. 10 in an 8-3 road win over the Reds. It marked his shortest career postseason outing.
The left-hander had gone 3-0 with a 2.29 ERA over his first three career road playoff starts before facing Cincinnati.
Zito is 2-6 with a 4.89 ERA in nine starts against the Cardinals, although he won his lone 2012 outing against them by yielding two runs over 6 1/3 innings Aug. 7 in a 4-2 victory at St. Louis.
Numerous Cardinals have good numbers against him, with Craig 4 for 10 with three homers, Molina 6 for 16 and Jay 3 for 5. Reserve infielder Skip Schumaker is 7 for 16 with three doubles versus Zito.
Zito has never faced Carpenter while Beltran is a .227 hitter against him.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
San Francisco Giants
St. Louis Cardinals
Carlos Beltran is back in the Cardinals' lineup tonight, batting 2nd, playing RF. For the Giants, Posey is back behind the dish and batting cleanup, the Panda is returned to 3rd spot in order and Belt's back at 1B. Pence, who's back behind Posey in 5th spot, said he wasn't sure if he would give pre-game pep talk. But Affeldt might be good at it.
Despite going just 2.2 innings and needing to be rescued by Lincecum in his last time out, Barry Zito hasn't suffered a loss in 12 straight starts.
Giants' manager Bruce Bochy said Madison Bumgarner is available as the Giants' long man out of the pen tonight. Tim Lincecum will be ready by Game 6.
This Cards crowd is fired up early on!
Pagan, Scutaro and Sandoval will lead off the 1st for the Giants.
The first pitch from Lynn is a slider inside for a ball and we're underway!
Pagan grounds out to 2B for the 1st out of the game. That will bring up the SS, Marco Scutaro.
Scutaro grounds out to Pete Kozma at shortstop for the 2nd out. That brings up the "Kung Fu Panda" - Pablo Sandoval.
Lynn finally commands his breaking ball for a strike.
Yes, Panda has a boo-boo on his toe and needs to take a knee.
Panda strikes out swinging to end the top-half of the 1st.
Jay flies out to LF for the 1st out. Two pitches; one out. That brings up Carlos Beltran, a post-season legend.
Zito grooves a 85mph fastball and Beltran watches it go by. On the next pitch, Carlos smacks a one-out base hit.
With one on and one out, Matt Holliday works the count into his favour: 3-1.
Holliday strikes out swinging on the Zito bender, but Beltran is able to steal second base on the strikeout - bad knee and all. With a runner in scoring position and two out, Allen Craig will step to the plate.