Johnny Cueto pitches 5-hitter, Giants beat Cardinals 6-2

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San Francisco also moved a game in front of the idle New York Mets and two up on the Cardinals in the chase for the two NL wild cards. Zach Duke gave up two runs on a hit and a walk in his one inning of work.

Hunter Pence singled twice and Brandon Belt added an RBI double for the Giants, who fell five games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. He could have limited the damage after Joe Panik’s sacrifice fly gave the Giants an early lead, but that was only the beginning.

In spring training, it seemed the Cardinals’ best asset was a starting rotation that had posted a 2.99 ERA the previous year, easily the best in baseball.

“We’ve just got to play better, that’s all there is to it”.

With the Cardinals loss, the Cubs clinched the NL Central for the first time since 2008.

Before Thursday’s game, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told Garcia he was being removed from the rotation in favor of rookie flamethrower Alex Reyes. “The standings say we’re right there”, Matheny said. You can’t run from them, hide from them. “Even if we didn’t (win) we’re still right in the thick of it”. Moore followed with a sacrifice bunt in front of the plate and Molina, an eight-time Gold Glove victor who probably should cede his spot to Posey this season, made a damaging throw that sailed into center field. But he chose to rush a throw to second and threw high for an error, allowing Denard Span to slide in safely.

“It was the right play”. Offensively, Stephen Piscotty leads St. Louis with 146 hits, Yadier Molina has 49 RBI and Matt Carpenter has 19 home runs. The Cardinals have batted.185 in the two games here, pitched poorly and made crushing mistakes. It scored Buster Posey, who came in hitting.193 over his last 14 games but recorded his second four-hit game of the season. The Giants weren’t done. “When you think about it, that’s what you want to do in the playoffs”, Belt said.

One team with a championship pedigree has risen to the occasion. He’s 6-1 with a 3.07 ERA in nine outings (eight starts) at ATT Park in San Francisco and 5-2 overall against the Giants with a 5.02 ERA in nine games (eight starts).

Posey is 7-for-9 in the first two games of this series, driving in four of the runs last night, and hitting his first home run since July 16th. The Giants couldn’t see him the first time through.

Randal Grichuk then singled to tie the score, sending pinch-runner Jose Martinez to third. But Posey countered immediately with his first home run in two months to make it 8-1. “He’s usually not like that”. Moore (11-11), staked to a big early lead, won for the fourth time in his last five starts. Moore allowed 10 base runners, striking out four, but only two Cardinals crossed home. Five Giants relievers combined to no-hit the Cardinals the rest of the way. The Cardinals activated RHP Trevor Rosenthal (shoulder inflammation) from the disabled list.

He finished with one walk and seven strikeouts. NOTES: The Giants have won two in a row at home for the first time since August 18-19 against the New York Mets. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny announced that OF Matt Holliday will take live batting practice before Saturday’s game to test his fractured right thumb. The slugger hasn’t played since August 11, when he was hit by a pitch in an 11-inning loss to the Cubs.