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Fateful 3rd inning sinks Cardinals vs. Giants

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

SAN FRANCISCO -- What finished as an 8-2 loss that dropped the Cardinals further behind in the National League Wild Card standings was all but decided in a third inning that saw momentum sapped by replay and another error start an avalanche of trouble.

Not only did a pair of overturned calls create a two-run swing in the inning, but the Cardinals surrendered six unearned runs for the first time in five years to dig a hole from which they couldn't emerge. With their fifth loss in six days, the Cardinals dropped three games behind the Giants and two back of the Mets in the Wild Card race.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- What finished as an 8-2 loss that dropped the Cardinals further behind in the National League Wild Card standings was all but decided in a third inning that saw momentum sapped by replay and another error start an avalanche of trouble.

Not only did a pair of overturned calls create a two-run swing in the inning, but the Cardinals surrendered six unearned runs for the first time in five years to dig a hole from which they couldn't emerge. With their fifth loss in six days, the Cardinals dropped three games behind the Giants and two back of the Mets in the Wild Card race.

Full Game Coverage

"We just have to play better," manager Mike Matheny said afterward. "That's all there is to it. The standings are the standings, and we know what they are."

The night began to unravel as soon as catcher Yadier Molina sailed a throw into center field. What should have been one out -- and potentially the start of an inning-ending double play -- on a weak bunt by opposing starter Matt Moore instead kickstarted San Francisco's game-changing frame.

It was the second error of the season for the perennial Gold Glove winner, who declined an interview request after the game.

"It's the right play," emphasized Matheny. "Sometimes that ball is just going to sail a little bit. As soon as the ball was bunted, I knew exactly what he was going to do because that's the right play. He makes that play 99 out of 100 times."

There was no comment needed from Molina to trace what followed. The next seven pitches rookie starter Luke Weaver threw were out of the strike zone. That loaded the bases and led to a sacrifice fly that plated San Francisco's first run. A bloop single by Buster Posey scored two more before a succession of three hard-hit balls put the Giants up by six.

Video: STL@SF: Giants notch six runs in the 3rd

"It just kind of got away from me," said Weaver, who sandwiched the error with walks to compound the mess. "For a little stint there, I just lost feel of the ball. It's just a different animal out here [in colder weather]. You have to be able to adjust."

All six runs were unearned, leaving Weaver as the first Cardinals pitcher since Silvio Martinez in 1979 to allow at least six unearned runs without giving up an earned one.

The forgettable frame was also bookended by replay reviews that went San Francisco's way. Just as the Cardinals believed they had broken through first with a run off Moore, it was erased and the top of the third closed when a replay crew ruled Aledmys Diaz out at first base. That overturned call, which took an infield single away from Diaz, negated Tommy Pham's hustle home on the play.

Video: STL@SF: Diaz ruled out after overturned call

In the bottom half of the inning, a play at the plate in which Brandon Belt was initially ruled out was also overturned. That erased an assist for Stephen Piscotty, ended Weaver's night and capped the six-run frame. For Weaver, the 2 2/3-inning start was the shortest of his career.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

St. Louis Cardinals, Yadier Molina, Luke Weaver