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Near-perfect Weaver, 3 homers slay Giants

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

SAN FRANCISCO -- Multiple times in the span of eight minutes prior to Thursday's 11-2 romp over the Giants at AT&T Park, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny referenced the "urgency" his team's start-and-stop first half has spawned, already now, just five days into July.

"Every win seems so priceless," the skipper said, stressing the importance of the weeks ahead, which will likely define St. Louis' season.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Multiple times in the span of eight minutes prior to Thursday's 11-2 romp over the Giants at AT&T Park, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny referenced the "urgency" his team's start-and-stop first half has spawned, already now, just five days into July.

"Every win seems so priceless," the skipper said, stressing the importance of the weeks ahead, which will likely define St. Louis' season.

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Now five games above .500 but at a critical point in the National League Central standings, Matheny was sending a message: He can no longer afford to rely on past resumes at the expense of the game at hand. The sentiment stemmed into answers about Dexter Fowler and Greg Holland, but it could've just as easily applied to Luke Weaver, or Jedd Gyorko, or a slew of other contributors -- many of whom helped out in one of the Cardinals' most complete wins of the season.

"That's what you're hoping for," Matheny said afterwards. "Whenever you see results like that, it's so encouraging."

Video: STL@SF: Cardinals on all-around effort in 11-2 win

Matheny was speaking of Weaver, who halted a shaky seven-start stretch with eight near-perfect innings. But it also rang true for his offense as a whole, which followed Wednesday's eight-run output with a season-high 18-hit attack.

Video: STL@SF: Bader crushes 2-run homer to center field

Gyorko hit a three-run homer en route to a season-high five RBIs. Harrison Bader went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in place of Fowler, seemingly setting him up to start again on Friday. Matt Carpenter also went deep. In all, every Cardinals starter tallied at least one hit to back Weaver, who outpitched Johnny Cueto in his return from the disabled list.

Video: STL@SF: Carpenter clubs solo homer to center in 2nd

Weaver struck out seven and walked zero over a career-high eight innings in a performance that may have saved him a rotation spot. He entered play with a 6.49 ERA over his last seven starts.

"It was a long time coming," Weaver said. "You hate going out there and not being very good. There is an urgency to go out there and knowing you can perform."

It was on the heels of those recent struggles that Weaver embarked on a "collective search" over the past five days, when a bullpen session and subsequent video review revealed a mechanical flaw in the righty's delivery. Corrected by the time he jogged to the mound at AT&T Park, Weaver took a perfect game into the sixth and retired his final seven hitters. Only Alen Hanson's two-run homer in the sixth dented his line, two batters after Gorkys Hernandez's soft infield single ended his string of 16 batters retired to begin the night.

Video: STL@SF: Weaver loses his perfect-game bid after 5 1/3

By then, the Cardinals were cruising. Gyorko's opposite-field shot capped a four-run rally off Cueto in the first, and his two-run double off Ty Blach punctuated a four-run sixth. The sample size is small, but the Cardinals have now notched at least six extra-base hits in two straight games and collected more hits than strikeouts in three straight. They had been unable to do so in six of their previous eight contests.

"A game like this, where you have contributions from every guy in the lineup with some damage ... you need to see those sort of things to know what the expectation should be," Matheny said. "We can't throw that up there every night, but to know we have that in the tank, I think that has a lasting effect for our team."

Video: STL@SF: Gyorko reaches base 4 times, collects 5 RBIs

SOUND SMART
Thursday marked another milestone in what has been a year of them for Yadier Molina, who climbed into sole possession of 15th on the all-time games caught list. Molina finished 3-for-5 in his 1,772nd career game behind the plate, eclipsing longtime Cardinals backstop Ted Simmons on a durability list for the second time this season. With 76 regular-season games left in 2018, Molina could theoretically rank as high as 12th by season's end. He'd have to pass Gabby Hartnett, Rick Ferrell and Lance Parrish to do so.

Tweet from @Cardinals: Making history!@Yadimolina04 has officially passed Ted Simmons for 15th place on the all-time games caught list by catching the 1,772nd game of his career. #STLCards pic.twitter.com/zlYOslqelk

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Weaver's shot at perfection appeared to be interrupted an inning early, when Pablo Sandoval jogged to first base in the fifth, the apparent recipient of a two-out walk. But Sandoval was soon called back after umpires realized Weaver's wide curveball was only ball three. After a considerable delay during which Sandoval had to reapply protective gaurds to his elbow and shin -- "he wears a lot of gear," Weaver said -- Weaver struck him out with another curve to win a 12-pitch battle.

"I asked for the count, but I don't think anyone heard me," Weaver said. "It left me in a weird state of mind there … it became about trying to lock back in and make a big pitch. I was pretty emotional afterwards because it was a pretty big pitch. I tried not to worry about what was going on with the [perfect game]. I was focusing on executing a pitch that I had just walked him on, so to speak, and making a better one." More >

Video: STL@SF: Weaver K's Sandoval after count confusion

HE SAID IT
"Everyone is fighting for playing time. Take advantage of the opportunities you get. When you get the chance, make the most of it so you get another chance." -- Matheny

UP NEXT
For the first time in seven weeks, the Cardinals' lineup could feature Paul DeJong (broken left hand) when the series continues at 9:15 p.m. CT on Friday. St. Louis is planning to activate its starting shortstop after his four-game rehab stint at Triple-A Memphis. DeJong will anchor the Cardinals' infield alignment behind right-hander John Gant (2-3, 3.92 ERA), who will take his third turn through the rotation in place of the injured Michael Wacha. Rookie right-hander Dereck Rodriguez (3-1, 3.16 ERA) counters for San Francisco.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Harrison Bader, Matt Carpenter, Jedd Gyorko, Luke Weaver