ST. LOUIS -- Twice Matt Cain was one strike away from escaping the sixth inning with minimal damage Monday night. But a pair of clutch, two-out St. Louis at-bats sent Cain packing in an 8-2 Cardinals win.
With the game tied at 2, Matt Holliday led off the sixth with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by David Freese. Later, with two outs in the inning, Rafael Furcal worked a full-count walk and pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter singled into left field on a 1-2 pitch to put St. Louis ahead by three.
"[Cain's] a pitch away from keeping it within one run," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "They did a nice job of hitting with a big two-strike hit. Especially ahead in the count, we made some mistakes."
Carpenter was 3-for-3 on the year against Cain, and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny played the numbers while calling on Carpenter to break the game open.
"[Cain's] obviously one of the best pitchers in the game, and I've had some good at-bats against him," Carpenter said. "But they've all been tough. Tonight I was down in the count when I got the hit. He makes tough pitches, but fortunately I was able to put the barrel on it and get the job done."
San Francisco fell to 1-2 against the Cardinals this season and snapped a three-game winning streak after sweeping Colorado prior to arriving in St. Louis.
Cain allowed five runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings and saw his ERA (3.01) rise above three for the first time since April 13. He threw 114 pitches, his most since throwing 125 in his perfect game against Houston on June 13.
Cain's lost back-to-back starts for the second time this season and the first time since April 24-May 1. In eight starts since his perfect game, his ERA is over four. While a few of his outings over that stretch have been uncharacteristically rocky, Cain said he's been feeling good each time out and Monday night was no different.
"I'm going out there to try and do my job," Cain said. "There's times you give up maybe more pitches in different games. I guess it's just make better pitches and get quicker outs."
Despite Cain's recent inconsistency, Bochy isn't going to soon lose faith in the 27-year-old right-hander. Bochy said Cain's stuff has been as good lately as it's ever been, and his trust in Cain was in evidence Monday when he left Cain in the game in the sixth with his pitch count already above 100.
"He's our guy," Bochy said. "I don't think he wanted to come out in a one-run ballgame. We gave him a chance to get out of it."
Cain started the game shutting the Cardinals down in order with eight pitches in the first, but labored through the second. He used 31 pitches in the inning, which began with a leadoff homer by Carlos Beltran and also included an RBI single by Furcal.
The two-run inning erased a 1-0 lead that Angel Pagan provided with a homer on the second pitch of the game from St. Louis starter Jake Westbrook. The home run was Pagan's second leadoff homer of the season and the fifth of his career.
Buster Posey homered with two outs in the sixth to tie the game at 2. Posey extended his hitting streak to 10 games, has driven in nine runs in his last five games and is batting 38-for-83 (.458) since the All-Star break.
The Giants scattered seven hits over six innings off Westbrook and squandered their best scoring opportunity in the fourth. Melky Cabrera and Posey hit back-to-back leadoff singles, but Westbrook set San Francisco down in order to end the threat.
So, what was Westbrook doing particularly well?
"Everything," said second baseman Ryan Theriot. "Jake threw the ball really good. Good sinker, cutter, curveball. He stayed out of the middle of the plate. When he does that, he's tough.
"He got ahead too early. If you don't fight those pitches off and put them in play, it's going to call for a long night."
Aside from the fourth inning and their pair of homers, the Giants didn't get a runner past first base all night. Westbrook and the Cardinals' bullpen forced the Giants to swing at their pitches, while St. Louis battled in at-bats to get hitters' pitches.
In Theriot's eyes, that was the difference.
"That's how you hit and score runs," he said. "You spoil the good pitches, the pitchers' pitches. You foul those off. That's how you create rallies. I wouldn't say that was an approach that was talked about before the game. I think it's just a testament to the game those guys had tonight."
Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.