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Craig regaining stroke for Cardinals, going 2 for 3 with homer in 6-5 loss to Giants

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ST. LOUIS - Allen Craig is regaining his form at the plate.

Three weeks after seeing his average fall to .202, the Cardinals first baseman doubled and homered in a 6-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night to improve to .255. He has six multi-hit games in his past nine contests while going 15 for 36.

"I felt like I had a good approach and was aggressive," Craig said after going 2 for 3 against the Giants. "I hit the ball decent, so it was a good night."

He drove in two runs and leads the team with 29 RBIs.

It looked like he might have the game-winner Thursday, but Michael Morse homered and drove in three runs and Pablo Sandoval homered and scored twice to propel the Giants in the opener of a four-game series.

"It looked like the day off served him well," manager Bruce Bochy said of Morse, who sat for the first time this season Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs. "A home run and that big hit off of one of the more dominant closers in the game with the power arm that he has."

The Giants, at the start of a seven-game trip to St. Louis and Cincinnati, have won seven of eight.

The Cardinals have dropped three of four to start their nine-game home stand.

Gregor Blanco scored from second on Angel Pagan's single to centre to tie the score at 4-4 in the eighth. Third base coach Tim Flannery initially held Blanco at third because of centre fielder Peter Bourjos' good arm.

But Blanco scored when the throw bounced on the home plate side of the mound and past three Cardinals, including Carlos Martinez (0-3), who was in front of catcher Yadier Molina rather than backing up the throw. Pagan moved up to second on the throw.

Matheny said Martinez stopped when he saw Blanco stay at third. He stabbed at the throw from Bourjos, keeping Molina from making the catch and allowing the ball to go to the screen.

"Yaddy never was able to see the ball," Matheny said. "As soon as that ball's hit, they all know, they've got to get behind the catcher. He was in the wrong spot and it ended up hurting."

Trevor Rosenthal came in after Martinez intentionally walked Sandoval, but Morse doubled just past a diving Bourjos to drive in Pagan and Sandoval to give the Giants a 6-4 lead.

Javier Lopez (1-0) got two groundouts in relief of Ryan Vogelsong for his first win since Sept. 22, 2013, at the New York Yankees.

Sergio Romo gave up a run on Matt Carpenter's two-out single, but held on for his 17th save in 19 chances. Romo has surrendered four runs in the past three games, raising his ERA to 3.52.

Vogelsong allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out five in 6 1-3 innings.

Sandoval's eighth homer of the season tied the score at 3-3 in the sixth inning. The third baseman has an RBI in each of the past nine games. He's the first Giant to do that since Barry Bonds in 2000.

Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia went seven innings, giving up three runs on five hits. He struck out seven and has yet to issue a walk this season. He was in line for the victory after Craig hit his sixth homer of the season and second in three games off Vogelsong in the bottom of the sixth.

"We definitely had a bead on that game," Craig said. "It felt like we were going to win it, but that's baseball. We didn't make enough plays."

Vogelsong got into trouble in the fourth when the Cardinals loaded the bases with no outs on matt Holliday's single and consecutive walks to Craig and Molina. Jhonny Peralta, batting .111 (5 of 45) with runners in scoring position, grounded into a double play, plating Holliday. John Jay drove in Craig with a single to give St. Louis a 3-2 lead.

Morse tied the score at 1-1 with his ninth homer of the season, a 442-foot blast to left centre field, to lead off the second. Brandon Hicks scored on Blanco's single to give the Giants a 2-1 lead.

St. Louis snapped Vogelsong's scoreless streak at 13 2-3 innings with a run in the first. Craig's ground-rule double brought home Carpenter, who singled to lead off and stole second with two outs.

NOTES: Carpenter's first-inning single extended his NL-best hitting streak to 11 games. ... Holliday has reached base safely in all 25 home games. ... St. Louis 1B Matt Adams sat for the second consecutive night with a stiff left calf, though he was available as a pinch hitter. ... The Cardinals entered the game without a home run off Vogelsong in 68 at-bats, and all but three of their 24 hits were for singles. ... Cardinals prospect Tim Cooney had a no-hitter broken up with two outs in ninth Thursday for Triple-A Memphis. He settled for one-hitter. ... St. Louis is set to start Adam Wainwright (8-2, 1.67) against San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner (6-3, 3.15) on Friday night.

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