ST. LOUIS — This was always going to be the hardest road trip of the season. But just in case you had any doubts, the St. Louis Cardinals offered a reminder on the first night.
The Cardinals got their customary lockdown pitching performance from a starter and scored in the eighth to win 2-1. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Giants, who travel to Pittsburgh after two more games here.
The Giants caught a break last October when an injury limited Michael Wacha to one — memorable for the Giants, disastrous for the Cardinals — relief outing in the NLCS. On Monday, they saw the whole package. Wacha dominated the early innings, and Chris Heston wobbled. The rookie gave up hits in each of the first three frames and Yadier Molina opened the fourth with a mammoth homer. Heston walked the bases loaded, but he got out of the jam by striking out Kolten Wong.
Heston wouldn’t survive the fifth, but the Cardinals stranded two more runners in that frame and left the door open. Brandon Crawford charged through with a sharp double to left-center that tied the game.
Hunter Strickland breezed through his porting of the seventh but gave up a one-out triple to Stephen Piscotty in the eighth. After an intentional walk of Brandon Moss, Strickland got Mark Reynolds to hit a slow tapper up the middle. Crawford fielded the ball, rushed to second, spun and threw to first. His throw was down the line, allowing Reynolds to reach safely as Piscotty scored the go-ahead run.
Buster Posey came up as the go-ahead run in the ninth and hit a pinch-hit moonshot to center, but it was caught at the wall for the final out.
Starting pitching report: Heston had a rough road trip the last time the Giants left San Francisco, but he felt much better about his start at home, even if the Giants did lose 2-0. There was a troubling sign that day, though: Heston walked four in his last start and he walked five on Monday night. In four August starts, Heston has 13 walks and 11 strikeouts.
Bullpen report: Yusmeiro Petit has struggled this season but looked sharp in his 1 1/3 innings. There was some thought that Petit would go on the DL to clear the needed roster spot, but that appears unlikely now.
At the plate: Crawford’s double gave him 73 RBI. He’s on pace to drive in exactly 100 runs this season.
In the field: Remember when the Giants were teaching Matt Duffy how to play third base? He’s become really, really good over there. Duffy made a nice scoop on a short-hop grounder to get the final out of the second inning.
Attendance: The Cardinals announced a crowd of 40,088 human beings. Kirk Rueter was in the house.
Up next: Mike Leake is scheduled to return to the rotation and make his second start as a Giant, and the long-time Cincinnati Red knows these Cardinals well. He’ll face Lance Lynn, who is one of the most underrated pitchers in the game but seems to have major trouble with the Giants.