ST. LOUIS — The Giants’ 6-5 victory over the Cardinals on Thursday night typified the season of both clubs.
The Giants, owners of the best record (35-19) in the majors, found a way to win after they entered the eighth inning trailing 4-3.
The Cardinals did just enough wrong to lose and lost for the third time in four home games this week.
"It felt like we were going to win it," Allen Craig said. "We just didn’t make enough plays."
One bad play in the eighth turned the game in the Giants’ favor. With Gregor Blanco on second after a single and a steal, Angel Pagan lined a one-out single to center. Blanco initially was held up at third as he appeared to have no chance of scoring. But when center fielder Peter Bourjos threw home, reliever Carlos Martinez failed to back up the play and instead was caught a few feet in front of the plate.
Martinez not only missed the throw from Bourjos, but being positioned in front of Yadier Molina prevented Molina from having a chance to make the catch. When the ball skipped past Molina, Blanco raced in to tie the game.
"As soon as that ball is hit, they all know they gotta be behind the catcher," manager Mike Matheny said. "He was in the wrong spot. Ended up hurting."
Matheny theorized that Martinez didn’t back up the play because he didn’t think there was going to be a play.
"What he saw was the runner wasn’t going to go, he stopped and thought maybe he could get a shorter hop for Yadi," Matheny said. "He’s an athlete, wants to be on top of every play. That’s not the right play."
Three batters later, the Giants took the lead on a two-run double by Mike Morse. The Cardinals got the tying run to third in the ninth before pinch hitter Shane Robinson popped out to third to end the game.
— Jaime Garcia. Considering his injury-checkered recent past, the lefty has exceeded all reasonable expectations in his first three starts. This was the best yet. Garcia went seven innings and allowed three runs — two on bases-empty homers — while striking out seven and walking none. He worked quickly and efficiently, throwing only 84 pitches, including 59 strikes. Garcia has pitched 19 2/3 innings and has yet to walk a batter. He served up two homers for the second time, but all four have come with the bases empty.
— Allen Craig. His up-and-down season is on another up. A big up, at that. Craig drove in two and scored two with a home run, RBI double and a walk. The RBIs moved him ahead of Matt Holliday for the team lead, 29-28.
"I felt like I had a good approach," Craig said. "I was aggressive. I did a good job at swinging at balls that were in the zone."
Craig has driven in at least one run in nine of his past 10 games and is hitting .347 (26 for 75) over his past 19 games.
— Matt Holliday. With a fourth-inning single, he extended his streak of reaching base in every home game, 25 and counting. Holliday, however, failed in the fifth when he had two on with two out and popped up to second. Peter Bourjos and Kolten Wong had used speed plays to get to third and second, respectively, but were left stranded.
— Martinez. He entered in the eighth with a 4-3 lead, but allowed two hits and an intentional walk and all three base runners scored, leaving him the loser and dropping his record to 0-3. Martinez has had his share of struggles this season but had pitched well in his previous two outings.
"Had a little bit of a struggle, made an adjustment," Matheny said. "Got a little more aggressive early in the count, a little sharper. He looked like a different guy, like what we saw last season. There’s some things he’s going to have to sort through again to get back there."
— Trevor Rosenthal. Brought in to clean up the mess left by Martinez, Rosenthal instead gave up the decisive hit — a two-run double to Mike Morse. Rosenthal challenged the Giants’ cleanup hitter with a 98-mph fastball on an 0-1 count, but Morse smoked it to right center for the winning hit. Morse earlier had accounted for San Francisco’s first run with a 442-foot, second-inning home run into the center-field bleachers.
— Matt Adams. A sore left calf kept him out of the lineup for the second straight game, but unlike Wednesday night, Adams was unavailable to even pinch hit. "Unfortunately," Matheny said. Instead, with the tying run on third with two out in the ninth, Matheny called on Robinson, a right-handed hitter against right-handed closer Sergio Romo. Robinson got the count to 2-2 before he popped out.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.