After a 5-1 homestand against two teams that probably won't make a lot of noise in September, San Francisco faced an October-like challenge in the first game of their road trip against two familiar postseason foes. Not only were they playing a Cardinals team that had won 10 of their previous 14, but another back flare-up kept Buster Posey on the bench.
The Giants were up to it, coming back from three separate one-run deficits and utilizing a three-run eighth inning rally to beat the Cardinals 6-5 in a nail-biter at Busch Stadium.
Sergio Romo, who's struggling to get people out with his slider or his fastball these days, came awfully close to coughing up a two-run lead in the ninth. After allowing a run on Matt Carpenter's single that drove in Jon Jay, Romo got pinch-hitter Shane Robinson to pop out to Joaquin Arias with the tying run on third and the winning run on first.
The Giants continue to come through with two outs, driving in four runs in those situations on Thursday night.
Starting pitching report
As Bruce Bochy likes to say whenever a starting pitcher keeps the Giants in the game despite several stressful innings, Ryan Vogelsong "battled." Four runs allowed over six and a third innings is generally considered a solid day at the office for most fifth starters, but Vogelsong has hardly looked like a back end of the rotation kind of pitcher over the last several weeks.
After Vogelsong didn't allow a run in his previous two starts, the Cardinals tagged him with a run in the first inning when Allen Craig knocked in Matt Carpenter with a ground-rule double.
The leadoff hitter reached base six times against the Vogelsong -- once on a throwing error by Brandon Crawford.
Vogelsong lost the feel for his two-seam fastball in the fourth, and the Cardinals took advantage. A Matt Holliday single to right was followed by consecutive walks to Allen Craig and Yadier Molina. The Cardinals would score two runs in the inning on a Jhonny Peralta double play and a single to center by Jay.
Vogelsong allowed a home run to Craig in the sixth inning. It was the first homer he's given up since the Rockies hit three against him on April 21.
Javier Lopez's elbow may have been "barking" before, but he seems to be feeling better. After barely seeing the field in the first half of May, Lopez pitched well for the third time in four days and picked up his first win of the season. Lopez came into the game with one out in the seventh inning and retired Carpenter and Kolten Wong to strand Peter Bourjos at second.
Jean Machi didn't vulture his sixth win of the season, but he continued his machine-like ways with a perfect eighth to lower his ERA to a minuscule 0.33. Romo is clearly scuffling these days, allowing a run for the third straight outing and coming very close to blowing his third save in his last seven chances.
At the plate
After two consecutive games without going deep, the Giants went back to the long ball on Thursday night.
Morse led off the second inning with a long first-pitch home run to left, his 11th of the season. Gregor Blanco came through with the team's first two-out RBI of the night later that inning to give the Giants a 2-1 lead when he knocked in Brandon Hicks with a single.
Cardinals left-handed starter Jaime Garcia got into a groove after that, retiring 11 of the next 12 hitters he faced. Then Pablo Sandoval showed that his slump has officially vanished on both sides of the plate, clubbing his eighth home run of the season to tie the game at 3-3.
The lucky cowboy boots Madison Bumgarner gave Sandoval made the trip to St. Louis. With the way Sandoval is hitting these days, the entire team might be line dancing in the dugout during games by the end of this weekend.
"It's unbelievable," Morse said. "Those boots are crazy for Pablo."
Sandoval upped his streak of games with an RBI to nine, and he isn't the only hitter who appears to have figured things out after a long rough patch. Blanco, who gets in trouble when he focuses too much on driving the ball over the fence, collected three singles in a game for the second time in less than a week. After hitting .100 on May 11 and .143 just five days ago, Blanco's average has risen to .221.
Angel Pagan came through with one of the key hits of the game in the eighth, climbing out of an 0-2 hole and smacking a single up the middle with Blanco on second. Tim Flannery held Blanco up at third, but the Giants got a break when Bourjos' throw sailed past three Cardinals and hit the backstop, allowing Blanco to score the tying run.
While Blanco led the way with the jabs, Morse came through with the knockout blow – a two-out double in the eighth that scored Pagan and Sandoval.
In the field
Crawford committed an error for the second consecutive day, the first time he's done that in a little over a year. Pablo Sandoval made a diving stop in the first and started two key double plays.
The Cardinals announced a paid crowd of 41,337, almost a full house but almost 4,000 shy of their attendance yesterday with the Yankees in town.
Tomorrow's matchup of No. 1 starters – Madison Bumgarner (6-3, 3.15 ERA) against Adam Wainwright (8-2, 1.67) – is still on. Matt Cain (1-3, 3.66) was scheduled to start Saturday's game against Michael Wacha (3-3, 2.67), but after testing his hamstring before Thursday's game his availability is up in the air. Bruce Bochy said they'd make a decision on Cain tomorrow, but a trip to the DL is a possibility. Tim Hudson (5-2, 1.92) will face right-hander Lance Lynn (6-2, 3.13) on Sunday.