ST. LOUIS – The Giants finally got that quality start they needed on the road.
They just had to go to their last man in the bullpen to find it.
Chad Gaudin hadn’t made a major league start since he wore Yankee pinstripes four years ago, but he was ever so equal to the task against the NL’s top club Sunday afternoon. Gaudin held the Cards to two runs in six innings and Brandon Belt hit a tiebreaking, two-run pinch double in the seventh as the Giants avoided a three-game sweep with a 4-2 victory at Busch Stadium.
The victory snapped the Giants’ seven-game road losing streak. It was just their second win out of their last 11 away from AT&T Park.
And Gaudin’s quality start was the first by a Giant on the road since Madison Bumgarner contributed one April 30 at Arizona.
That’s right. April 30.
Belt’s double came in the nick of time to make a winner of Gaudin, Buster Posey had his first four-hit game of the season and Sergio Romo responded when asked to convert his first four-out save of the year.
Starting pitching report
If Gaudin (1-1) was trying to pace himself, the radar gun didn’t show it. He hit 94 mph and didn’t toy with one of the league’s best lineups while pumping efficient strikes.
He made it through six innings on 79 pitches – one short of the reasonable ceiling that Giants manager Bruce Bochy had planned to impose on him.
Helped out of the third inning by shortstop Brandon Crawford’s sensational play on Yadier Molina, Gaudin made just one mistake the rest of the way. He served up a tying, two-run home run to David Freese in the fourth.
The right-hander retired seven hitters after that, though, to claim his first win as a Giant.
It was just what the Giants needed after they had been outscored 44-8 in the first three innings of their previous 10 road games.
Jeremy Affeldt pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning and Romo was game when asked to get the final out in the eighth. He struck out Tony Cruz, then pitched around a single by Allen Craig in the ninth.
Romo hit the dirt while covering first base on Freese’s ground out to end the game and slammed his glove in apparent anger, but it had to improve his mood to go through the handshake line in a road uniform once again.
Romo improved to 15 for 17 in save opportunities.
At the plate
The Giants didn’t exactly wreck Cardinals rookie left-hander Tyler Lyons (2-1), but their four runs against was a bounty after they had been held to just one run in Saturday’s doubleheader.
Joaquin Arias and Crawford singled in the second inning and Gregor Blanco’s double-play grounder – the first of the Giants’ four double-play bouncers in the game – gave them a 1-0 lead.
Posey and Hunter Pence hit consecutive doubles to make it 2-0 in the third inning.
Crawford and Blanco started the go-ahead rally in the seventh with a single and a walk. The Cardinals went to left-hander Randy Choate, knowing the Giants had limited choices on the bench. The lefty didn’t faze Belt, who improved to 3 for 6 as a pinch hitter this season.
Sometimes Crawford makes a sensational play. Sometimes he makes a critical one. He did both in the third inning.
With two on and two out, Crawford made a diving stop to his right of Yadier Molina’s hard grounder. He had to range so deep to get it, it almost seemed a folly to try for the out. But as it happened, Molina didn’t exactly bust out of the box and Crawford set himself quickly, then got plenty behind his throw.
Molina was out by a half-step and spiked his helmet, more in apparent anger over making an out than to protest the call. It didn’t matter. It was an equipment violation, and umpire Clint Fagan immediately ejected him.
Molina became enraged and had to be held back by his brother, Cardinals assistant hitting coach Bengie Molina, from going after crew chief Tim Welke. There appeared to be some bumping and arm contact, however, so expect the league to take additional disciplinary action.
Matheny was ejected as well.
The Cardinals announced 43,817 paid, and a gripe if I may: Even on Sundays, the traditional Clydesdale run is a video board production these days. For shame, Cardinals. For shame, cheap and tasteless domestic beer brand that shall not be named.
The Giants take a day off Monday before beginning a nice, long two-game (!!) homestand Tuesday night with Melky Cabrera and the Toronto Blue Jays at AT&T Park. Tim Lincecum (3-5, 5.12 ERA) is scheduled to face right-hander Josh Johnson (0-1. 6.86), who is set to come off the disabled list. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. PDT.
[EXCLUSIVE: Lincecum considers a second career in relief]
It’ll be left-hander Barry Zito (4-3, 3.88) against right-handed knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (4-7, 5.18) on Wednesday.