SAN FRANCISCO -- Though invincibility is a quality not associated with the Giants, their last vestige of it evaporated in Wednesday night's 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.Madison Bumgarner had won each of his previous eight starts at AT&T Park, dating back to last year. But that streak ended as the Giants' offense remained characteristically limp. Bumgarner (5-3) surrendered a first-inning run, then resumed being his indomitable self. He blanked St. Louis until World Series hero David Freese lined a 1-1 curveball over the left-field barrier to break a 1-1 tie with two outs in the seventh. The Cardinals added a pair of runs in the eighth. Jaime Garcia singled and Rafael Furcal doubled with one out, finishing Bumgarner. Steve Edlefsen relieved Bumgarner and faced pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker, who lined a two-run double. Bumgarner praised the Cardinals, who prevailed without the injured Carlos Beltran in their lineup.
"They're the defending World Series champions for a reason," said Bumgarner, whose home winning streak was the longest by a Giant since Bob Knepper also won eight in a row at Candlestick Park from 1977-78.The Cardinals reciprocated Bumgarner's respect. "Bumgarner, he's tough," Freese said. "He crossfires it in there and sneaks them past you. He's the type of guy you have to grind an at-bat out against." Said Schumaker, "Bumgarner is an up-and-coming superstar, so to scratch a win out against him is huge." The Giants sensed that generating offense would be a challenge against Garcia. This assumption proved accurate. San Francisco's hopes of solving Garcia dwindled with the announcement shortly before the game that left fielder Melky Cabrera, the club's most prolific hitter of late, was scratched with an injured left toe. Manager Bruce Bochy described Cabrera's ailment as something akin to a corn. This removed Cabrera's .333 average and 16 RBIs, both team highs, from the lineup. That lineup featured a quirk: Bochy elevated Bumgarner to the eighth spot in the batting order and dropped second baseman Emmanuel Burriss to ninth. Bochy reasoned that juxtaposing Burriss with leadoff batter Gregor Blanco would increase the concentration of speed. It did, but the Giants received few opportunities to run wild and free. They again sagged with runners in scoring position, going 2-for-11 in those situations. That's why Garcia allowed nine hits in 7 1/3 innings but just one run. "That was probably our worst night with our at-bats with runners in scoring position," Bochy said. "We were too anxious, too aggressive and really chasing pitches." Bochy partly attributed the Giants' shortcomings to the 25-year-old Garcia, who, like Bumgarner, is a young, promising left-hander. "He was smart," Bochy said of Garcia, who trimmed his ERA against the Giants to 1.28 in four career starts. "He expanded the [strike] zone and we chased it." Buster Posey, whose 3-for-4 effort led the Giants, drove in their lone run with a seventh-inning single. Angel Pagan contributed two hits, but San Francisco had nobody else to complement Posey, who raised his batting average from .280 to .295. Lacking Cabrera's presence, the Giants looked futile at times. But Blanco refused to yield to that mindset. "I think we just have to keep playing. It's a long season and we need to believe in ourselves. We have talent and a winning mentality. We need to have fun and play baseball." Bumgarner said that the Giants' offensive struggles and personnel changes didn't affect him. "I want to try to keep them from scoring as much as I can, no matter what kind of lineup we have," he said. "I don't want to go out there and give up runs. Tonight I just had a tough time."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.