Cardinals Carlos Beltran's knee keeps improving

By Janie Mccauley

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Oct. 21 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence, right, smiles at third base coach Tim Flannery during a voluntary workout in preparation for Game 6 of the National League championship baseball series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 in San Francisco.

Ben Margot, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran was among only a handful of St. Louis players who stopped by AT&T Park during Saturday's off day of the NL championship series.

He received more treatment on his troublesome knee to get ready for Game 6 against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday.

His hard work in the training room is helping his strained left knee. Beltran was in the lineup again and batting third for Sunday night's Game 6.

The 35-year-old Beltran was injured running out a double-play ball in the first inning of Game 3 and missed the rest of that game along with Thursday's Game 4. He underwent acupuncture treatment to increase blood flow to the knee, then returned for Friday's 5-0 loss to San Francisco.

"Well, the progress he made, first of all, was getting on the field," manager Mike Matheny said Sunday. "We were concerned we wouldn't have him, and it took down to right at the last minute before we got him in that last game. But he came out and the first at-bat gets a base hit and then steals a base — pretty indicative of how he's feeling."

Beltran is batting .382 with three home runs and six RBIs this postseason, his first with St. Louis after spending the second half of 2011 with the Giants before missing the playoffs.

"I salute him and our medical staff for getting really ahead of this and hopefully we'll be able to keep riding this out and it doesn't flare up again," Matheny said.

Yet the manager was left to scramble and rewrite his lineup about an hour before first pitch when left fielder Matt Holliday was scratched with tightness in his lower back.

HARD TO WATCH: When Sergio Romo is pitching in the ninth inning of a nail-biting postseason game, Giants general manager Brian Sabean and his staff have had a tough time watching.

The Giants never faced an elimination game on the way to winning an improbable World Series title two years ago. On Sunday, they played their fifth this fall already.

While Sabean has kept his mind busy charting pitcher's velocities or keeping track of the count, he says other members of his front office staff have actually left the room or covered their faces they were so anxious.

"I don't sit in the stands," Sabean said. "The replay helps. We have the delay on."

Sabean stays in the GM booth because he knows being outside might be too tempting to become emotional — and show it for more than 40,000 fans to see. He said he might just throw a water bottle in frustration without intending to do so.

"I try to distract myself during the game because I can scout the game, I've got my own note taking system," Sabean said. "I'm not comparing this team to the 2010 team. When you get this far, especially where we're at now, the anxiety is just hoping they can pull it out because they're so committed to it and such a good group of people. I really don't know at the end of the day how talented we are but somewhere between the like to win and hate to lose."

Just how many water bottles has he tossed this October?

"None. I've been very well behaved," Sabean said with a smile, acknowledging he has dropped some curse words here and there.

TIGERS WAIT: There's plenty of chatter about whether the Detroit Tigers have too much time off to wait for the World Series. Detroit capped a four-game sweep of the Yankees with an 8-1 win Thursday in the AL championship series.

That left Jim Leyland's club plenty of time to get rested and ready for whoever's next — and Detroit will hit the road first for Wednesday's Game 1 with the National League holding home-field advantage.

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