The Cardinals lost for the fifth time in seven games Friday, but this defeat came with some upside, unlike some of the others.
First, they erased a one-run San Francisco lead in the ninth inning on shortstop Ryan Theriot's two-out, two-run single after Theriot had fouled off four 3-2 pitches in a 12-pitch at-bat.
Second, they escaped a jam in the 11th inning when manager Tony La Russa went to a five-man infield. Left fielder Allen Craig, who lined up at third base, made a diving backhanded stab on Aaron Rowand's one-out smash down the line, and the Cardinals ran down Andres Torres between third and home.
Rookie right-hander Bryan Augenstein pitched brilliantly to wriggle of the 11th inning. The Giants had a runner at third with nobody out and, after two intentional walks following Craig's great play, Augenstein fanned pinch hitter Mark DeRosa with the bases loaded.
Rowand eventually beat left-hander Brian Tallet in the 12th with a two-out, bases-loaded single off the left-center-field wall. Preceding the winning hit in the Giants' 5-4 victory was a play on which Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols couldn't handle a low throw from Tallet. Pujols may not have seen the ball clearly with Torres running down the line.
Closer Ryan Franklin blew his second save in three chances when he allowed a two-out, run-scoring single by Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval in the ninth inning. Franklin blew just two of 29 save opportunities all last season.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and Pujols actually had a pickoff play in mind if Franklin's inside pitch to Sandoval had made it to Molina's glove. Trail runner Buster Posey was well off first and might have been caught if Sandoval hadn't made contact when the ball didn't get inside enough. Sandoval hit a shot past Pujols, who was preparing to move to the bag.
"I don't fault (the play)," La Russa said. "It's worked too many times."
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