ST. LOUIS — One more win and another bunch of wild-card Cardinals get their chance to repeat.
Adam Wainwright threw seven innings of four-hit ball and St. Louis roughed up Tim Lincecum and the Giants in an 8-3 rout Thursday night that gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead in the NL Championship Series.
The defending World Series champions can wrap up their second straight pennant as a wild card with a victory at home tonight in Game 5. A Cardinals win would set up a 2006 World Series rematch with Detroit.
"We've got to close them out (tonight)," Wainwright said.
Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Yadier Molina had two RBIs apiece to lead a 12-hit outburst by a team that batted just .198 through the first three games against San Francisco.
"They had their backs against the wall against the Reds and won three in a row, so we've still got our work cut out for us, and this series is by no means over," Holliday said.
Lincecum was a bust in his first postseason start since the 2010 World Series clincher over Texas, giving up four runs in 4⅔ innings.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner with the quirky delivery earned a shot based on nearly spotless relief work earlier in the postseason but reverted to regular-season form, when he was 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA, worst among qualifying starters in the National League.
Wainwright was a glorified cheerleader while rehabbing from reconstructive elbow surgery during the Cardinals' improbable title drive last fall after earning the wild card on the final day of the season, then upsetting the favored Phillies, Brewers and Rangers.
Under rookie manager Mike Matheny, the 88-win Cardinals were the final team to qualify this season, too.
Wainwright bounced back from a poor outing in Game 5 of the NL Division Series against Washington, striking out five and walking none for his first postseason victory as a starter.
"It was a big motivator," he said. "I know that I'm good enough to pitch in the postseason, to carry this team deep into the game, give them a quality game, a quality outing. Last time I didn't do it, but I knew (Thursday) if I just believed in myself and went out there and executed pitches, I would be in good shape."
The lone damage against Wainwright came on Hunter Pence's first homer and RBI of the postseason, a second-inning clout estimated at 451 feet.
Now, the 14-game winner is on the verge of his first World Series as an active player since he was the stand-in closer for injured Jason Isringhausen in the 2006 clincher over the Tigers.
"This whole experience is so special as it is," Wainwright said. "But to get back to that World Series is always the way to go."
NLCS Game 5: Today's matchup 2012 Team 2012 Vs. Opp.
Team Pitcher Time W-L ERA Rec. W-L IP ERA
San Francisco Zito (L) 8:07 15-8 4.19 22-11 1-0 6.2 2.70
St. Louis Lynn (R) p.m. 19-8 3.98 22-8 0-1 9.2 7.45