The Cardinals on Monday blasted the Giants in a game that was likely as important for the team's psyche as it was in the standings.
The Birds gained a game on the Reds, who lost in Milwaukee, to cut their National League Central deficit to six games. And they did it by beating a pretty good Giants team that is in the thick of the playoff hunt.
It seems the win -- and the recent hot streak have started to snowball the Redbirds' confidence.
While the Cardinals have been frustrated by their inability to gain on Cincinnati of late, they've played better than the standings might indicate. The Birds have won 10 of their last 13 games. Most of those wins came against weak NL teams Chicago, Colorado and Milwaukee. It means something more to beat the Giants behind All Star Game starter Matt Cain.
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Angel Pagan led of the scoring with a first inning homer off St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook. But that was all the scoring the Giants would get until the top of the sixth when Buster Posey cracked a solo shot.
The Cardinals tied the game in the second when Carlos Beltran hit a home run. Then they took the lead 2-1 on a rally started with a David Freese lead-off walk. Jon Jay singled Freese to third and then, after fouling off several pitches with two strikes, Rafael Furcal collected his first hit in 14 at bats to score Freese.
Matt Holliday doubled to lead off the bottom of the sixth after the Giants tied the game. Beltran hit a fly ball to center and Holliday tagged up, hustling to third base to put the go ahead run 90 feet from the plate with one out.
Freese hit a long fly ball to score Holliday and put St. Louis back ahead 3-2. But the Cardinals weren't done.
Yadier Molina and Jay singled then Furcal walked to load the bases. Manager Mike Matheny pulled back Westbrook and pinch hit with Matt Carpenter who collected a two-run hit to put the Birds up 5-2.
In the seventh the Cardinals added three more with the big blows coming from Freese and Jay.
The sudden offensive eruption caused the Cardinals to be able to get Westbrook off the field after only 76 pitches -- and to be able to preserve the arms of Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte who have appeared quite a bit lately.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Jay, who has been struggling lately, was four-for-four Monday night to improve his batting average to .296.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Beltran's homer was another encouraging sign. He's spraying the ball all over the field once again and hitting the ball -- hard -- where it is pitched. Beltran also made a key play in the game when he threw out San Francisco's Brandon Belt trying to stretch a single into a double.
Lowlight: Daniel Descalso has been hot lately. But on Monday he was 0-for-5 batting in the lead-off spot.
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