(Reuters) - The St Louis Cardinals moved within one win of returning to the World Series with an 8-3 romp over the San Francisco Giants that gave them a 3-1 lead in the National League Championship Series on Thursday.
Starter Adam Wainwright, bouncing back from a sub-par outing, stymied the Giants with a sharp-breaking curve ball, and the Cardinals gave him plenty of support with two runs in the first and two more in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
Matt Carpenter, whose two-run home run as a mid-game substitute propelled World Series champions St Louis to victory on Wednesday, reached base three times and scored twice, while Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Jon Jay each drove in two runs.
Holliday said the Cardinals would not suffer from overconfidence in the best-of-seven series, considering that the Giants advanced in the division round despite losing the first two games of the best-of-five series at home.
"They had their backs against the wall against the (Cincinnati) Reds and won three in a row, so we still got our work cut out for us," the power-hitting outfielder said.
Run-scoring singles by Holliday and 2011 postseason MVP David Freese off Giants starter and loser Tim Lincecum quickly put the Cards into the lead.
Wainwright gave up a solo home run to Hunter Pence in the second inning but nothing more, as he fashioned a dominant performance after a dismal start in the deciding Division Series game against the Washington Nationals that put the Cardinals in a 6-0 hole before they battled back to win.
"I was terrible in that game and the guys played great to bail me out," said Wainwright, who registered only seven outs in that do-or-die contest.
"It was a big motivator," Wainwright said. "I know that I'm good enough to pitch in the postseason and to carry this team deep into the game and give them a quality game, a quality outing. Last time, I didn't do it.
"I was very confident coming into the game."
Wainwright yielded just four hits in seven innings, did not issue a walk and struck out five.
The right-hander's road to victory got easier when St Louis added two more runs in the fifth on singles by Holliday and Molina, and two more in the sixth on Jay's two-run double.
"You expect Adam to pitch well, pitch like an ace and he did," Holliday said. "Tonight he came out and pitched like he can pitch. Sometimes things like the Washington game happen, but he's tough as nails."
Pablo Sandoval added two runs to San Francisco's total with a home run in the ninth off reliever Fernando Salas.
St Louis can clinch a World Series place against American League champion Detroit Tigers with a home win against San Francisco on Friday when Cards starter Lance Lynn is scheduled to take the mound against Giants left-hander Barry Zito.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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