ST. LOUIS -- With a large portion of the Giants' offense ailing or absent from Saturday night's lineup and one of the National League's top pitchers opposing him, Madison Bumgarner needed to perform almost flawlessly to have a chance at defeating the St. Louis Cardinals.
He succeeded for two entire innings.
That obviously wasn't enough against the Cardinals, who thrashed the Giants, 7-1, to finish sweeping a day-night doubleheader. St. Louis won the first game, 8-0, to launch San Francisco's fruitless 12-hour workday at Busch Stadium.
Bumgarner retired the first seven batters he faced but ultimately allowed five runs and six hits in six innings as the woes of San Francisco's starters resumed. Their overall ERA climbed to 4.93. It's even worse on the road -- an unsightly 6.28. No wonder the Giants have lost seven consecutive road games and nine of the last 10.
The Giants, who surged past St. Louis in last year's National League Championship Series en route to winning the World Series, were clearly outclassed by the team with the Major Leagues' best record. San Francisco was without center fielder Angel Pagan (left hamstring) and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (left foot), who nursed their respective injuries, and catcher Buster Posey, who received one of his periodic rests.
"When you don't have your leadoff hitter, your three-hole hitter and your four-hole hitter, it's going to change things," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
In fact, San Francisco, which entered Saturday with a league-high .270 batting average and a league-low 329 hitters' strikeouts, was turned inside out by Wainwright. The right-hander blanked the Giants on five hits while striking out eight in the first six innings.
The Giants, who did not advance a runner as far as third base in the first game, finally accomplished that small feat off Wainwright in the seventh inning as Brandon Belt doubled and scored on Andres Torres' single.
Wainwright didn't let the Giants' diluted lineup lull him into false security.
"You could very easily go out there and take that for granted and give up a couple runs because you're not ready to pitch," he said. "My thought today was just to respect those guys over there. ... It was nice to not see Pagan in there because he hits me well. But that team knows how to win. They've proven year in and year out that whoever is on the field, they know how to win. It was important for us to go out there and take this game real seriously."
In fact, Giants players insisted they could have thrived without their key performers.
"You can't focus on that stuff," Bumgarner said. "Plus, we know we have good enough depth on the bench that they're going to play well and you won't even know we missed those guys."
Said Posey, who happened to be one of those guys, "If we have a guy go down, I feel like we have other guys who can step in and do the job well."
The Cardinals proved the legitimacy of this philosophy. Each of their position players started at least one game in the doubleheader.
"You need 25 guys," said Bochy, who helped shape the Giants into champions by using his entire roster.
Bumgarner lapsed in the third inning, when St. Louis shattered a scoreless tie with three runs. The rally's focal point was a double by the .160-hitting Wainwright, who connected on an 0-2 pitch.
"He let his guard down there," Bochy said, suggesting that Bumgarner thought Wainwright would be bunting with Pete Kozma on first and one out. "Otherwise it might have been a scoreless game into the sixth inning."
Bumgarner said that he didn't know what ploy Wainwright might try.
"I tried to throw a backdoor cutter and left it up," the Giants left-hander said. "I kind of had an idea he might be swinging, but one way or another I wanted to make a good pitch and I didn't do it."
The inning continued to unravel as Kozma, racing home on Jon Jay's grounder to first base, beat Belt's throw. One out later, Carlos Beltran hit a two-run single. Though six innings remained, the Giants were essentially finished.
San Francisco sank perilously close to the .500 mark (29-27) while being swept in a doubleheader in this city for the first time since June 10, 1962.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.