ST. LOUIS -- One day after back-to-back blowout victories over the Giants in a split doubleheader, the Cardinals couldn't muster up the same magic against the defending champions, falling, 4-2, in Sunday's series finale.
The absence of catcher Yadier Molina and manager Mike Matheny, who were ejected in the third inning, certainly didn't help.
Molina was called out on a tight call at first and slammed his helmet to the ground before turning back toward the dugout. First-base umpire Clint Fagan immediately ejected him. Molina then charged at Fagan and had to be restrained. Matheny ran out onto the field to protest the ejection and was also removed from the game.
After the game, Matheny defended his catcher and was critical of the umpire's decision to eject Molina, emphasizing the impact the decision had on the game.
"That game was about to change if that ball goes through," Matheny said. "That's where his frustration is. And afterward, his frustration turned because a call was made that shouldn't have been made."
With the Giants up, 2-0, the nine-year veteran exited the field to cheers of "Yadi" from the sellout crowd of 43,817 at Busch Stadium. Tony Cruz replaced Molina at catcher.
"You don't want to get thrown out of the game in that situation," Molina said. "We were down 2-0 early in the game. It was frustrating."
With Molina and Matheny in the clubhouse, David Freese got the Cardinals back on track in the next inning by skirting a two-run blast just over the left-field wall on the first pitch of the at-bat to tie the game at 2-2.
With the homer, Freese extended his hitting streak to 12 games, tied for the longest of his career. The third baseman has overcome a rough start to the season to raise his average to .256 after it had dipped as low as .163 near the end of April.
"It was just good to tie it up," Freese said. "Just keep pushing. Giants aren't gonna go anywhere. They've proven that."
Freese's solid play extended to the top of the fifth, when he started a double play to close out the inning. It was the second of four double plays for the Cardinals on the day.
"That's huge," Freese said. "That's something we make a valid point on to be strong at, no matter who's playing the infield. We're gonna get some grounders. That's what the staff kind of preaches and what they work to inflict."
In his third start, Tyler Lyons picked up the first loss of his rookie season, allowing four earned runs on eight hits while two and striking out three in 6 1/3 innings.
"I was inconsistent, kind of from the beginning," Lyons said. "I didn't have great fastball command. Fighting myself a little bit today but just was trying to do my best to eat up innings and get as far as we could."
The left-hander said his lack of command over his fastball reduced the effectiveness of the rest of his arsenal. He allowed a pair of runs early on, one in the second and another in the third, but kept the Giants' hitters in check until the seventh inning. He let two runners on before he was pulled in favor of left-handed reliever Randy Choate.
Entering Sunday's contest, Choate had allowed just three of 20 inherited runners to score, and that 15-percent mark was good for sixth best in the National League. But Choate surrendered a long double to pinch-hitter Brandon Belt, which brought home both Brandon Crawford and Gregor Blanco to give the Giants a 4-2 lead.
"When you make a mistake, especially at this level, they're gonna hit you," Choate said. "Even if it's left on left, you're lucky to get away with a mistake. I left it up. He's a good hitter, and he just went right with it and put it in the gap."
Before Belt's two-run double, left-handed hitters were just 5-for-23 with only one extra-base hit against Choate.
Seth Maness relieved Choate and retired the final two batters to end the seventh. Victor Marte gave up two singles in the eighth, but Pete Kozma turned a fourth double play to contain the damage. In his second big league appearance, Keith Butler went 1-2-3 in the ninth.
Winning pitcher Chad Gaudin, in his first start in four years, pitched six innings, gave up four hits and two earned runs with five strikeouts.
"I think he moved the ball around well. He definitely pitched off his fastball," said Giants catcher Buster Posey. "One of the few mistakes was to Freese. It was still down, just in the middle of the plate."
Despite the loss, the Cardinals still took the three-game series with the Giants and have claim to baseball's best record at 37-19.
"We wanted this game, but we got the series and we're happy about it," Freese said.
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.