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Cardinals dump Giants in MLB series opener

Carlos Beltran and David Freese each hit two-run home runs and reigning World Series champion St. Louis defeated San Francisco 6-4 to win a Major League Baseball playoff series opener.

The best-of-seven National League Championship Series continues on Monday in San Francisco before shifting to St. Louis. The winner will face either the New York Yankees or Detroit Tigers for the World Series championship.

Freese blasted his homer in the second inning to give the Cardinals a 2-0 edge and Beltran, a Puerto Rican slugger who played for the Giants last year, capped a four-run fourth that gave St. Louis a 6-0 lead on Sunday.

"I feel like I'm seeing the ball well," Beltran said. "My approach at the plate is really good. It was a good day for me. It's good for us to get the first game of the series."

Pete Kozma smacked a run-scoring double in the fourth, stole third base and crossed the plate himself on a Jon Jay single to add to the Cardinals' scoring surge and send San Francisco starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner to the showers.

But the Giants responded with a four-run fourth inning of their own to pull within 6-4.

Brandon Belt's two-out single drove in the first San Francisco run and Gregor Blanco followed with a two-run triple to centerfield and scored on Brandon Crawford's double to right.

The teams' relief pitchers combined to allow only one hit after the fourth inning until the bottom of the ninth, when the Giants had their last chance to escape defeat.

Angel Pagan smacked a two-out single into right field, bringing San Francisco's hottest hitter, Marco Scutaro, to the plate. But Scutaro grounded out to end the game.

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