The St. Louis Cardinals are on fire ... again

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The St. Louis Cardinals are on fire ... again

From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Ahead by a lot or behind by a bunch, these St. Louis Cardinals are winning every which way.Boosted by two-run homers from proven postseason stars Carlos Beltran and David Freese, and 5 1-3 innings from a steady bullpen, these wild, wild-card Cardinals beat the San Francisco Giants 6-4 on Sunday night in Game 1 of the NL championship series.The defending World Series champions built an early 6-0 cushion and held on. Only two nights earlier, the Cardinals came back from the same deficit, using a four-run rally in the ninth inning at Washington in the deciding Game 5 of the division series."I'm thinking about the D.C. game," Freese said. "They were up 6-0. We were up 6-0. And that shows that you've got to keep playing. ... We were fortunate enough that our bullpen came in and closed the door the rest of the way."Starter Lance Lynn was done after 3 2-3 innings. Edward Mujica, the fifth St. Louis pitcher, struck out the side in order in the seventh for the win. Jason Motte finished for his second save of the postseason.The Cardinals gave first-year manager Mike Matheny a win against his former club.Matheny's crew hardly looked road weary after a cross-country trip. The Giants dropped to 0-3 at home so far during these playoffs, outscored 20-6 at AT&T Park.Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Monday night. Chris Carpenter pitches for the Cardinals against Ryan Vogelsong.This is the first time the previous two World Series winners are facing off in the postseason since the 1958 World Series between the Braves and Yankees."The way we play the game, we have been in this type of situation before in the regular season," Beltran said. "These guys have this mentality of not panicking."Beltran's fourth-inning drive into the seats in left-center chased San Francisco starter Madison Bumgarner, who has been a far cry from the impressive pitcher he was during the 2010 World Series run.It was Beltran's 14th career postseason home run and third this October."Right now I'm really enjoying myself," Beltran said. "Right now I'm seeing the ball well. I feel like I have a good approach at the plate, I feel like I'm not trying to do too much, and good things are happening."Beltran spent the second half of the 2011 season with San Francisco after a trade from the Mets, but the Giants missed the playoffs last fall a year after the capturing an improbable championship. The orange towel-waving sellout crowd of 42,534 let him have it with boos at every opportunity -- during pregame introductions and each time he stepped into the batter's box.Both teams were well rested a day after a rough night of travel. The Giants barely beat the Cardinals to the Bay Area early Saturday after they were delayed three hours on the tarmac in Cincinnati on Friday night -- to refuel and for a mechanical problem after waiting out the Cardinals-Nationals game to know where they were headed next.Matheny stuck with the same winning lineup that he sent out for Game 5, and some of the same faces came through again."They put together some better at-bats than us," Giants center fielder Angel Pagan said. "They hit some homers and were up 6-0. That's a pretty good lead in the playoffs. We tried to battle back. We did our best but it wasn't our night."Daniel Descalso, who hit a tying, two-out single in Friday's 9-7 win, added two more hits.Descalso hit a one-out double in the fourth, then rookie Pete Kozma drove him home with a double of his own. In the ninth inning Friday, Kozma followed Descalso with a go-ahead, two-run single.Descalso did well playing in his native Northern California. He spends his offseasons in San Francisco's Marina district.Beltran and Freese each had two strikes when they homered."I think that's been very much of a strong suit for us all season," Matheny said. "And it's a beautiful thing when these guys trust themselves when they get to two strikes. They can be a little more selective early in the count and then they're not going to panic when we do get to two strikes. I give the guys a lot of credit."St. Louis 18-game winner Lynn didn't allow a hit until Marco Scutaro's single to left leading off the fourth. Hunter Pence singled two outs later and Brandon Belt drove him home with a single. Gregor Blanco followed with a two-run triple, then Brandon Crawford hit an RBI double. Pinch hitter Aubrey Huff -- a 2010 postseason star now in a diminished role -- drew a walk to cheers of "Aubrey! Aubrey!"And, just like that, Lynn was done."The bullpen did a great job," catcher Yadier Molina said. "We struck first, and to hold that lead, we won with the bullpen."Bumgarner and Lynn each lasted only 3 2-3 innings. That made for a long night in both bullpens.The pressure is now on for the Giants not to fall behind 2-0 at home again. They lost the first two games of their division series here to the Reds last weekend before winning three in a row at Cincinnati. They went 48-33 at AT&T Park this season."We've shown how resilient we can be," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We hate to lose them at home, but it happens. And we've got to wash this one off and come out and be ready to go tomorrow."Bumgarner, a 16-game winner for the NL West champs, lost Game 2 of the division series at home to the Reds exactly a week earlier.He pitched a 1-2-3 first on Sunday but ran into trouble in the second when Molina singled on an 0-2 pitch with one out. Freese then drove a 3-2 pitch over the wall in left-center to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.Bumgarner needed 30 pitches to get through the second, and now has an 11.25 ERA in his two postseason starts this year.Lynn returned to the rotation for the NLCS and his first career postseason start after making four relief appearances in the division series. Matheny needed another starter after left-hander Jaime Garcia injured his left shoulder in Game 2 against the Nationals."Right now we feel like everyone's feeding off each other," reliever Joe Kelly said. "If one guy does something, you want to go out and match it and try to keep that momentum going. It shows the confidence that Mike has in this bullpen. It makes us want to play better for him. He hands the ball off and he knows what he's doing."NOTES:Matheny caught for the Giants in 2005-06. ... Freese's two RBIs gave him 25 for his postseason career, tied with Molina for third most on the Cardinals. Albert Pujols is No. 1 with 52 and Jim Edmonds has 41. ... Both teams kept their rosters intact from the division series. ... The clubs split their season series 3-all. ... Giants assistant batting coach Joe Lefebvre took over 1B coaching duties in place of Roberto Kelly, who sustained a concussion after being hit by a ball off Buster Posey's bat during batting practice Saturday. ... Matheny received a nice ovation during pregame introductions. ... More fans packed the viewing portwalk outside the ballpark beneath the right-field arcade.

Kings teammates on Gay's Achilles injury: 'It kind of hurt my soul'

Kings teammates on Gay's Achilles injury: 'It kind of hurt my soul'

SACRAMENTO -- The news couldn’t be any worse for the Sacramento Kings. A 106-102 loss to the Indiana Pacers sent the Kings to their sixth loss in seven tries on the homestand. But an injury to Rudy Gay had the locker room as quiet as it’s ever been.

“Somber, very somber,” Garrett Temple said of the team’s mood. “We have a team of good character guys. Guys that have the right mindset and it’s tough to see people get hurt, especially a guy like Rudy. I’m going to be praying for him and hopefully he can bounce back stronger than before.”

Gay, 30, went to the floor hard in the late third quarter after trying to make a move on the baseline. He laid on the floor for a few seconds before slapping the ground in disgust. Eventually he had to be carried off the court by Willie Cauley-Stein, Omri Casspi and the team’s medical staff.

The initial report is a torn left Achilles tendon. An MRI is set for Thursday morning, but CSN California has learned the diagnosis is correct. There is no timeline for what comes next for Gay, but surgery is required for the team’s second leading scorer.

“Rudy’s a good guy and for him to go down like that this time of year, in this point of his life is kinda tough,” Lawson said. “I’m probably one of the closest to him on the team. It kind of hurt my soul.”

It was a non-contact injury for Gay and the veteran appeared to know the severity of the injury right away.

“Once I seen him on the ground, I felt sick, I felt like something in me just dropped,” Lawson added.   

Gay made his way into the locker room while media was still present. He wore a dark hoodie and a walking boot and moved with the aid of crutches. He grabbed his belongings and left without speaking to the media.

The veteran forward has had issues with his Achilles in the past and even underwent shock wave treatment over summer on the area to prepare himself for the upcoming season. He missed time over the previous two seasons with Achilles tendonitis.

Gay was set to opt out of the final season of his three-year contract extension signed in November of 2014 and become an unrestricted free agent. If he opts in, he is owed $14.4 million next season by the Kings.

Even before the injury, the Kings had began to sputter. After leading by as many as 22 early in the game, Indiana had cut the lead to ten at the point of the injury and momentum had clearly shifted the Pacers way. Without Gay on the court, All-Star Paul George scored two points to end the third and another 11 in the deciding fourth quarter to finish the night with 24.

DeMarcus Cousins tossed in a 25-point, 12-rebounds, 10-assist triple-double, but he shot 0-for-9 in the second half as the Pacers collapsed on the All-Star center.

After falling to 1-6 on the seven game homestand, Sacramento is scheduled to hit the road for a brutal stretch away from Golden 1 Center beginning Friday in Memphis.

“We’ve got an eight game road trip, we’ve got to come together closer and closer, not drift apart,” Lawson said.   

The Kings will play eight games in 12 night’s including three sets of back-to-backs. Gay is clearly out of action, but the team may be without forward Omri Casspi on the trip as well.

Casspi was injured in practice earlier in the week and underwent an MRI on Monday. Tests revealed a strain to his right plantaris tendon and he is expected to miss 1-2 weeks.

“It’s tough, other players are going to have to step up that weren’t playing,” Lawson said. “Hopefully everybody’s been working hard to be ready for this moment.”

With the loss, Sacramento fell a season-high nine games under .500 at 16-25, but they remain just a game and a half out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff chase.

“Guys are going to have to step up, next man up, next man up,” Temple said.

Durant building 'Thunder Stopper' reputation after 40-point effort

Durant building 'Thunder Stopper' reputation after 40-point effort

OAKLAND -- Kevin Durant, Thunder Stopper? With a second consecutive magnificent performance in decisive wins over his former Oklahoma City teammates, Durant may be adding a nickname.

Durant on Wednesday night posted his first 40-point game as a Warrior, carrying them to a 121-100 win over the Thunder at Oracle Arena.

He has scored 79 points in two games against OKC, taking only 40 shots to ring up such an impressive total. He was 13-of-16 Wednesday night and 15-of-24 in scoring 39 points in a 122-96 win on Nov. 3 at Oracle.

Though Durant downplayed his production, his coach and teammates were not surprised he has been so good against the team with which he spent nine seasons.

“It’s still kind of fresh, but we can’t deny the history of him with OKC,” Stephen Curry said.

“Every player in the NBA wants to play well against his old team,” coach Steve Kerr said. “For most guys, you feel that extra juice when you play against a team that you played on.”

Durant not only finished with a season-high point total but also added a team-best 12 rebounds, along with four assists and three blocks. He practically stamped his signature on the game.

“My teammates are doing a good job of freeing me up,” said Durant, who drilled 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. “I put the work in and prepared myself for every game. I just happened to knock them down.”

It’s not just that Durant was facing his former team, though. He was, once again, on opposite sides from longtime teammate and erstwhile friend Russell Westbrook. The two have not had much to say to each other since Durant’s decision last July to leave OKC and sign with the Warriors.

Little changed Wednesday night, though the two had a brief exchange in the second half, as Durant headed to the line to shoot a pair of free throws.

Asked if the two have talked, Westbrook said, “Nah,” despite the brief dialogue.

Durant carefully avoided saying anything remotely inflammatory about Westbrook or any of his former teammates.

“It’s good to see everybody,” he said. “Once the ball is tipped, you’re just playing. You’re just hooping. It’s as simple as that. But it’s definitely good to see everybody.”

Durant’s lone lowlight came when he blew a dunk with 1:45 left in the first half, taking flight about 10 feet from the basket and slamming the ball off the back of the rim and nearly to halfcourt.

“I thought I made it,” Durant said, “and then I heard the crowd.

“I was kind of upset. I tried to dunk it too hard, I think. I might have jumped from a little too far out. As I was close to the rim, I felt myself coming down a little earlier than usual.

“But, yeah, I should have made that one. That would have brought the crowd to its feet. But, hopefully, I’ll get another opportunity.”

The crowd was on its feet plenty, as was the case during Durant’s previous display against OKC. The Thunder won’t be back to Oakland this season.

Durant will have another chance to go after his former team and burnish his credentials as a Thunder Stopper when the teams meet on Feb. 11 in Oklahoma City.