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April 8, Giants 5, Cardinals 4

If Albert Pujols didn't drop the ball on an easy play at first base. If Jon Jay could have executed even a mediocre bunt with two on and no one out. If Ryan Franklin wouldn't have blown his second save in two tries. If the Cardinals could have scored a couple of runs before the eighth and ninth innings, If the Cardinals could hit for any power at all...

If any one of about a dozen things that happened Friday would have gone differently, the Redbirds probably would have won their first road game of the year. But all of those things went maddeningly wrong in a sloppy, sloppy game that ended in a 5-4 loss that dropped the Birds to a sad 2-5 record to start the 2011 season.

It looked like things would get off to a positive start when the first two Cardinals to come to the plate in the game reached base. But the game took a sudden turn for the worse when Pujols killed the would-be rally with yet another double play ball. The St. Louis nine did get on the board in the second inning when Tyler Greene, starting at second in place of Skip Schumaker who was hitless for his career against Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez, singled home David Freese.

Freese doubled to lead off the inning. But he was still standing on second when Lance Berkman lined out to second and Yadier Molina grounded out to third. Greene came through with a flair to short center that got the job done. But the success was short-lived when St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook gave up a homer and a pair of doubles to San Francisco in the fourth to give the Giants a 2-1 lead.

In the sixth Westbrook gave up another solo homer to make the lead 3-1. He left the game with eight hits and four walks allowed. He surrendered three runs in his 5 2/3 innings, lowering his season ERA to 9.90.

It looked like the Cardinals would go quietly until Ryan Theriot singled and stole second in the eighth. With two outs Pujols singled home Theriot to cut the Giants lead to one. Then in the ninth Molina walked with two outs, Daniel Descalso singled and Jon Jay was knicked by a pitch to load the bases. Theriot came up and took a pitch that looked to everyone but the home plate umpire like strike three. But he got a repreive and then fouled off several pitches before getting one he could handle and driving home two runs to give St. Louis a 4-3 lead.

In came Ryan Franklin who got a couple of quick outs before giving up a single to Aaron Rowland, walking Buster Posey and Sandoval scored to tie the game.

The Birds had a couple of chances in extras to score the go-ahead run late in the game but failed. After wiggling out of the sixth with a runner at third and no outs, they loaded the bases in the 12th before Rowland knocked a ball to the wall with two outs to drive home the deciding run.

Albert Pujols had a chance to push the game to a 13th frame. But, with two outs, reliever Brian Tallet got an easy grounder that he fielded himself. But Pujols dropped the soft throw and allowed the inning to go on -- to a disappointing result.

Cardinals Star of the Game: Despite my previous rant against Westbrook -- and the fact that I stick to my statement that he isn't a major league quality starting shortstop, he gets the nod with three hits in five at bats - including one that scored the tying run and another that drove in what should have been the winning run.

Cardinals Play of the Game: Allen Craig's diving snag at third base in the 11th that preserved the game -- for a while.

Lowlight -- Ryan Franklin renounced his statement before the season that the 2011 campaign would be his last. Now it's starting to look like this year was one too many. He's blown two of his three save tries by not being able to get the last out.

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