ST. LOUIS — A sixth-inning meltdown Sunday night washed away all the positives built up by Jake Peavy early on and gave the Giants their first series loss in nearly a month.
Peavy, the bullpen, and an ill-timed error put the first six Cardinals on base in the decisive inning. The Giants blew an early lead and fell 6-3 at Busch Stadium. They’ve lost back-to-back games for the first time since May 9-10, when they dropped a series at home against the Blue Jays.
For five innings the Giants looked like they were headed for one of the more bizarre wins of the season. Peavy was shutting down a tough Cardinals lineup. Carlos Martinez had great stuff, but he gave up a two-run homer to Jarrett Parker in the fourth on a ball nobody thought was clearing the wall. Parker appeared to think it was headed foul before it crept over the wall 363 feet away and Martinez scrunched his face up in confusion.
Headed for a third straight strong start, Peavy unraveled quickly. He had a 3-1 lead entering the sixth but was pulled after two doubles and a walk. Hunter Strickland entered and his only pitch hit a batter. Javier Lopez entered and got Matt Adams to hit a sharp grounder to first, but it ate up Brandon Belt. Cory Gearrin entered and got a grounder up the middle, but Brandon Crawford couldn’t handle it.
Crawford and Panik saved a complete meltdown by making back-to-back highlight plays on sharp grounders, but the damage had been done. The Cardinals plated four in the inning, taking a 5-3 lead.
The Giants loaded the bases in the top of the seventh but Brandon Belt’s sharp liner was hit right at left fielder Matt Holliday.
Starting pitching report: Peavy’s start was actually more reminiscent of last season, not his early struggles this season. He allowed a .351 average the third time through the order last year and on Sunday he didn’t retire any of the Cardinals he faced a third time.
Bullpen report: Gearrin was a bright spot on a night when there weren’t many. He got six outs after entering with the bases loaded, throwing 22 pitches.
At the plate: Madison Bumgarner blasted one to the upper deck during BP. That was the offensive highlight of the day.
In the field: Because of contracts and risk, we’ll probably never get to see Bumgarner in the home run derby. Equally sad is the fact we’ll never get to see Belt pitch. The former Texas prep star showed off his strong arm in the third, throwing behind Matt Carpenter at second for a heads-up out.
Attendance: The Cardinals announced a crowd of 44,907 human beings who know what it’s like to be a Thunder fan.
Up next: A day off! The Red Sox come to town on Tuesday, with Albert Suarez facing Rick Porcello.