ST. LOUIS — Michael Morse rewarded his manager for giving him a rare day off.
Morse homered and drove in three runs and Pablo Sandoval homered and scored twice to propel the San Francisco Giants to a 6-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series.
“It looked like the day off served him well,” said manager Bruce Bochy, who sat Morse 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 center to tie the score at 4-all in the eighth. Third base coach Tim Flannery initially held Blanco at third because of center fielder Peter Bourjos’ strong 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. Trevor Rosenthal came in after Martinez intentionally walked Sandoval, but Morse doubled just past a diving Bourjos to drive in Pagan and Sandoval and give the Giants a 6-4 lead.
“I knew he was going to come with something hard,” Morse said. “I just tried to be short. I just tried to touch something.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Martinez stopped when he saw Blanco stayed 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.”
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 and had his ERA rise to 3.52.
Morse, in his first season with the Giants, has nine hits in his past 16 at-bats, with five doubles, a triple and the home run. He’s driven in eight during that five-game span and has a team-high 37 RBIs for the year.
“We’re just playing,” he said. “The mentality we have and the fun we’re having, I think winning is contagious and we love to win. We’re just going to keep going at it.”
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 Allen 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 none out 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 center 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. … The Giants improved to 9-14 when their opponents score first. … Holliday has reached base safely in all 25 home games. . San Francisco C Buster Posey didn’t play because of an ongoing back issue. Bochy said he is day to day. … 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. The Giants had just one homer off Garcia in 66 at-bats, but seven of their 19 hits went for extra bases. . 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.