Carlos Martinez couldn't get out of his own way, Michael Morse laced a two-run double off Trevor Rosenthal to right center that paved its own and the Cardinals bullpen took a win away from Jaime Garcia.
Martinez was called on in the eighth to protect a one-run lead after Garcia went seven, striking out seven and allowing three earned runs. All three runners that reached base against Martinez scored, including Gregor Blanco with the tying run, who raced home after Martinez deflected a relay throw to the backstop.
After a groundout and an intentional walk, Morse's double off Rosenthal made it 6-4.
Allen Craig put the Cardinals ahead 4-3 with a solo homer to right center in the sixth, his second RBI of the day and 12th in the past nine games. Craig improved his average to .417 over that span with two more hits.
Craig's homer put Garcia in line to win. The lefty responded by throwing a scoreless seventh before giving way to Martinez. Then a game that had been back-and-forth quickly unraveled.
Garcia wasn't dominant in his third start back from the disabled list, but his control, once again, was. Not his command - he's missed location enough times to allow four home runs in three games - but his control.
Garcia's strikeout-to-walk ratio doesn't exist, because he hasn't walked a batter through 19.7 innings. Impressive for someone who hadn't pitched in over a year.
All three Giant runs in the eigth were charged to Martinez, who took the loss.
Blanco wasn't trying to score from second on Angel Pagan's one-out single, because Peter Bourjos' throw was strong. But Martinez, inexplicably not backing up the plate, stood in the way of it. The out-of-position pitcher screened Yadier Molina and then tipped the ball past him, like scorer does to a goalie in hockey.
Martinez then got Hunter Pence to ground out back to the mound. Martinez almost threw the ball over Craig's head at first - and yanked Matheny off the top step in the process - but the first baseman stepped over the bag to hang on.
Martinez then intentionally walked Sandoval, who homered earlier in the game.
Rosenthal came in and his second pitch to Morse was tagged to right.
The Cardinals threatened against Giants closer Sergio Romo, scoring on a Matt Carpenter RBI single. Carpenter's single scored Jon Jay and moved Daniel Descalso over to third; the second baseman represented the tying run at first. But Shane Robinson popped a slider to end it.
Giants take advantage of miscue, lead 6-4 in 8th
Peter Bourjos' throw home was strong and early, and had Gregor Blanco tested it, it would have beat him to the plate.
Blanco recognized that, and so he rounded third base and decided to retreat. He, like everyone else at Busch Stadium, expected it to reach Yadier Molina way before he could.
But the ball never got to Molina.
Pitcher Carlos Martinez should have been backing up the plate but instead he stood in front of it, not only screening Molina but deflecting the ball when it came his way.
He was so close to Molina that the catcher couldn't react quick enough and the ball made it all the way to the backstop, allowing Blanco time to reconsider and trot home with the tying run.
Bourjos was charged with the error, even though it was Martinez who was out of place and absent-minded.
After Hunter Pence grounded out and Martinez intentionally walked Pablo Sandoval, Mike Matheny brought in Trevor Rosenthal, his closer, with two outs and two on in the bottom of the eighth.
The move immediately backfired, as Morse stroked a fastball into the gap in right center, past a diving Bourjos. Pagan, who hit the ball that eventually scored Blanco, scored. Sandoval scored from first and the Giants took a 6-4 lead.
Morse has had a big night. He belted a solo home run to left center in the first inning and is now 2-for-4 with 3 RBI.
Craig puts Cards back ahead with solo shot
Jaime Garcia had retired 11 of his last 12 before offering Pablo Sandoval a 2-0 changeup with two outs in the top of the sixth, a pitch the Panda liked and promptly devoured.
Sandoval's 407-foot home run to left center tied the game at 3-3 and marked the second time tonight Garcia squandered a lead by giving up a gopher ball.
Once again, the Cardinals got it back.
This time it happened quickly - don't-look-away-or-you-might-miss-it quickly - in the form of a rocket home run off the bat of Allen Craig. Craig's shot traveled the same estimated distance as Sandoval's and to almost the exact same place in the opposite gap. Fold the tracks of the two home runs on top of one another and you may just see a straight line.
Craig's blast was his sixth of the season. It came on a 1-1 pitch, and made the score 4-3.
Vogelsong retired the side in order after Craig's homer, and Garcia went back out for the top of the seventh.
Jay's single puts Cardinals on top 3-2
Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos are back-to-back in the lineup, shoulder-to-shoulder in the field and when it comes to almost any conversation about Mike Matheny's managerial decisions, mentioned in the same sentence.
Who should play more - the speedy center fielder with great range and the ability to change the game on the base paths, or the slower one who says a lot more with his bat?
With Matt Adams on the bench the last two games, Jay and Bourjos have been able to play side-by-side for only the third and fourth times this season. So far on Thursday, they've both made their case for being in the lineup when Adams comes back by doing what they do best.
Jon Jay dumped a go-ahead two-out, two-strike RBI single into right centerfield to put the Cardinals up 3-2 and make Vogelsong regret walking two men to load the bases with no out.
And Bourjos, well, he did what he does best as well, racing back to the warning track in centerfield to make catching a tough Brandon Hicks line drive look easy.
Hicks' ball was well struck, and would have been guaranteed extra bases to lead off the top of the fifth. Bourjos got to the track in plenty of time, and Garcia breezed through a quick inning.
Then in the bottom of the fifth, Bourjos' speed forced shortstop Brandon Crawford to make an errant throw on his ground ball. Bourjos reached on the error and went first to third on a sacrifice bunt.
Jay's hit was the seventh in his past 21 at bats as he continues to find the compact stroke that led to a .291 career batting average entering the season.
Bourjos is hitting .208 and is just two for his last 18.
The Cardinals tied the game at 2-2 when Jhonny Peralta grounded into a 5-4-3 double play with the bases loaded, scoring Holliday.
Holliday singled on a bloop into right to lead off the fourth. That's when Vogelsong started to lose himself. He walked Craig and Molina, missing mostly away.
Jay was thrown out trying to stretch his single into a double to end the fourth.
Bourjos was stranded at third, as was Kolten Wong at second, who walked and stole the bag, when Holliday popped up to end the fifth.
Giants take 2-1 lead in second
Giants start Ryan Vogelsong entered Thursday nursing a 13 inning scoreless streak, and the Cardinals went to work on it quickly.
Matt Carpenter stayed hot, grounding a single through the right side to extend his hit streak to 11 games. Vogelsong struck out Kolten Wong and Matt Holliday, but allowed Carpenter to swipe second before he could put away Allen Craig.
Craig, the No.4 hitter, promptly lined an RBI ground-rule double over the glove of Hunter Pence in right field. Yadier Molina bounced out into the diving hands of Pablo Sandoval at third base, and the first inning ended with the Cardinals up 1-0.
But the lead didn't stick for long.
Held it for one pitch before Michael Morse clobbered a 442-foot home run into the seats in left center field.
Morse's 11th home run of the season was also the third Garcia has surrendered in 13.2 innings since coming off the DL.
Garcia got Hector Sanchez to line to second for the first out before second baseman Brandon Hicks singled up the middle. Hicks advanced to second on a ground out and scored when Gregor Blanco singled sharply to right field.
Jon Jay came up throwing, but his one-hop toss to the plate was just late. Molina vacated the plate and threw behind Blanco at first base, catching the runner in a rundown. Two throws later Blanco was tagged out by Craig.
Adams to sit again with calf injury
Matt Adams' stiff left calf is about the same as yesterday, according to manager Mike Matheny, and so the first baseman will sit for the second consecutive game.
"They took a closer look today at him," Matheny said. "We're confident that we haven't seen anything major there, but there is enough that we have to be cautious."
Adams is still day-to-day, and Matheny said he won't be heading to the disabled list, at least not now. "At this point, no," Matheny said.
Depending on how he progresses throughout the game, Adams could be considered for pinch-hitting duty, as he was last night. Adams said he had trouble planting his back leg as he swung during his pinch-hit at bat last night against Yankees closer David Robertson. Adams struck out swinging.
Allen Craig will man first base for the second straight game, and Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos will once again start side by side in the outfield.
Starter Jaime Garcia, opposes Ryan Vogelsong (3-2, 3.20 ERA) in his third start since returning from shoulder surgery.
Garcia won his last start and owns a 4.20 ERA.
Vary your times, vary your looks
Shelby Miller gave up seven runs in the third and fourth innings Wednesday by allowing a constant stream of batters to reach base. What added to his troubles was the fact that once the runners got there, they kept going. Miller couldn't stop them, especially Jacoby Ellsbury.
Ellsbury easily stole second base twice in two innings on Miller - not catcher Yadier Molina, who never attempted a throw - by timing Miller's predictable routine on the mound. Ellsbury scored both times.
A team's ability to cut down base runners hinges as much on the pitcher's quickness to the plate as much as the accuracy and speed of the catcher's throw.
Teams generally consider a pitcher's delivery quick enough if it takes 1.4 seconds or less for the ball to reach the catcher. The clock starts when the pitcher starts his motion, ends when the catcher catches the ball. Tenths of seconds make all the difference.
The time it takes for the catcher to reach second base - or "pop time" - is preferably 2.0 seconds or less.
Molina beats that on most throws.
Miller didn't hold up his end of the bargain.
"If you get up in the 1.5, 1.6s, it doesn't matter who is catching," Matheny said Wednesday. "(Miller) is typically in the 1.3 range. Couple of those were almost 1.6. Yadi didn't even have a chance."
Matheny outlined all the things a pitcher must control with runners on base. He has to vary how long he holds the baseball, how many times he checks the runner, the frequency of his throws over. He has to decide when to slide step, when to peek over, and ultimately, how to make sure he controls the running game without letting it control him. Only when this is done, can he focus on pitching.
"You have to compartmentalize," Matheny said.
It's a lot of responsibility, but pitchers have no choice.
"They're going to have to or else they're going to have guys running on 'em like crazy," Matheny said.
Tate Matheny honored
Mike Matheny's son has been taking swings and working out at Busch Stadium before the last two games in preperation for a season in the coveted Cape Cod League, the summer league holy grail for top college prospects. Thursday Missouri State's star center fielder was honored with his second consecutive A.E. "Ted" Willis Most Valuable Player award, given each year to the most valuable Bear.
Tate Matheny became the sixth repeat winner in the 48-year history of the award by ranking among the MVC conference leaders in nearly every offensive category. His 35 hits in league play lead the MVC, and he ranked second in batting (.412), home runs (six) and total bases (57) during league play.
The sophomore who was drafted by the Cardinals in the 23rd round in 2012, will look to improve on that draft stock in the Cape Cod league, which begins on June 11.
No Buster Posey either
San Francisco holds the best record in the National League at 34-19, but Garcia will face a lineup without former MVP Buster Posey, who is sidelined due to back tightness. Hector Sanchez will start at catcher, Michael Morse at first base.