After a Game Three victory, the St. Louis Cardinals are in a solid position to advance to their second-straight World Series appearance as Game Four begins on Thursday night at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals have a 2-1 NLCS lead over the San Francisco Giants, as Kyle Lohse beat Matt Cain on Wednesday night.

A defeat would put the Giants one loss away from elimination. They turn to their former star pitcher to stop the bleeding.

Tim Lincecum takes the mound for his first start of the 2012 MLB Playoffs. His turn was skipped in the NLDS against the Reds, but his 8 1/3 innings pitched of one-run ball in relief earned him a start.

Arguably the best pitcher in baseball for his first five years in the majors, Lincecum fell off the map this season. He set career-worsts with 15 losses, a 5.18 ERA and 23 home runs allowed. The right hander's numbers are a far cry from those he put up in his 2008 and 2009 Cy Young-winning seasons.

Starting opposite Lincecum is the man who finished third in the NL Cy Young voting in 2009. Adam Wainwright will try to improve on his last postseason start. He gave up six runs in Game Five of the NLDS, and was bailed out by some clutch hitting by the Cardinals in the ninth inning.

St. Louis could be without their most important hitter in the contest. Carlos Beltran suffered a knee injury and is listed as day-to-day.

The outfielder has been hot in these playoffs, hitting three home runs. He’s been great in the postseason his whole career. Beltran’s playoff slugging percentage of .830 is first all-time in baseball history.

First pitch is set for 8 p.m. eastern time in St. Louis. The game is televised on FOX,  with audio cover as a free live stream online at espnradio.com.

Betting Line: St. Louis-130, San Francisco+120

Prediction: The Cardinals offense has played very well in the postseason, but could take a bug hit without Beltran in the lineup. At his best, Lincecum might be the top starter in baseball. If the NLDS is any indication, the Giants could be in good shape for Game Four.

Predicted Score: San Francisco 3, St. Louis 1