ST. LOUIS -- Manager Mike Matheny has been deliberate and unwavering in his assessment of victories all year. Each -- regardless of the drama, regardless of the opponents -- is seen as nothing but equal to the next.
And so it should be with losses, he insisted, after one of the worst in franchise history Wednesday. Adjectives aside, it counts the same as the last.
But regardless of how anyone wants to spin perception, this 15-0 rout by the Giants at Busch Stadium was immensely ugly. Two critical errors, three unearned runs and a pair of four-run innings off Cardinals relievers made for a long night, one that actually began with the Cardinals knowing a win would pull them to within five games of the division-leading Reds.
"We have to have a short memory on this one," Matheny said. "I look forward to getting back out here tomorrow morning and getting ready to completely change what we looked like tonight."
The Cardinals hadn't allowed 15 runs in a home game since Aug. 3, 2010, when the team surrendered 18 to the Astros. Only two times in franchise history had the club been shut out by a larger margin. A defending World Series champ hadn't endured a shutout loss this bad since 1926.
"It's just a bad night," said Tyler Greene, who finished 0-for-3 and committed an error. "The fortunate thing is it's just one night. We're going to forget about what happened today, come back fresh and do what we can do tomorrow."
The loss went on Joe Kelly's record, as did the first seven runs of the night. Only four, though, were earned. And the frustrations of a sloppy sixth were shared between him and Greene.
The Giants entered the inning with a two-run advantage and left it with a seven-run lead and Kelly out of the game. Kelly had been pitching decently enough to that point, with several weakly hit balls hurting him by finding holes.
The sixth opened with Melky Cabrera, who had singled and scored in the first, hitting a double. Kelly then issued a walk before consecutive singles drove home the first run of the inning.
With the bases full, Kelly induced the ground ball he needed. It was a slow, routine one, right at Greene, who was starting at second base because of injuries to infielders Skip Schumaker and Rafael Furcal. But a seemingly sure double play went awry, as the ball skipped right past Greene.
"It wasn't hit very hard," Greene said. "I just tried to be too quick with it to get the double play. That's the only thing, just trying to be too quick."
Two runs scored. Kelly's night ended.
"It's just a bad ground ball at a bad time," Greene said. "That's all it is. It's not the end of the world. I was trying to make a slow ground ball quicker. When you try to do that, that's usually what happens."
The error -- the Cardinals' second of the game -- led to two unearned runs that inning. Kelly's own throwing error on a pickoff attempt had resulted in an unearned tally in the third. This marked the first time since June 16 that Kelly hadn't recorded at least one out in the sixth inning of a start.
"He was in the game until we got into the sixth," Matheny said. "And then just couldn't stop the bleeding."
The timing of the less-than-stellar performance isn't ideal for Kelly, either. The Cardinals have been coy about their future rotation plans, preferring not to speculate on how room will be made in the rotation for Jaime Garcia's impending return.
It would seem, though, that Kelly's spot could be had.
Garcia is likely only two Minor League rehab starts away from forcing the Cardinals to make some sort of move.
"When I'm scheduled to pitch, I pitch," Kelly said when asked about such speculation. "I don't look into that at all, really."
The Cardinals never seriously threatened the Giants' early lead, as Ryan Vogelsong shut out St. Louis on three hits in seven innings. He entered the game 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in his other four career starts against the Cards.
Of the three hits he allowed, a double play erased one of them. An unsuccessful hit-and-run attempt cost the Cardinals another baserunner. And when the team did appear on the verge of finally breaking through, a terrific defensive play by Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford ended the fourth with runners on the corners.
"I was able to execute and make the pitches I wanted to make most of the night," Vogelsong said. "A few mistakes I made here and there, I got lucky. They either fouled them off or took them."
The Cardinals' bullpen made any missed chances by the offense entirely inconsequential, as it coughed up eight runs in the final two innings.
Lefty Brian Fuentes allowed the first four. He walked three and allowed three hits, including a two-run double by Marco Scutaro, in a 34-pitch eighth.
Scutaro then blasted a grand slam off Mitchell Boggs in the ninth. It ended a 23-appearance scoreless streak for Boggs, who last allowed a run June 12, and sent Scutaro to a career-best seven-RBI night.
"We weren't winning 1-0, so that's positive about it," Boggs said. "But other than that, it just wasn't a very good night."
Boggs, the team's regular eighth-inning setup man, was only in the out-of-hand game because certain other relievers needed the night off. He had never previously given up a grand slam.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.