ST. LOUIS -- After a tense 6-5 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday, one Giant after another praised the defending National League champions, pointing out that they're a good team that always gives you a fight.

How, then, would the streaking Giants describe themselves?

"Winning is contagious," Michael Morse said. "And we love to win."

Nobody is doing it like the Giants these days. They scored three runs in the eighth and held on in the bottom of the ninth at Busch Stadium, taking the first of a four-game set between two talented teams that have passed the league title back and forth for four seasons.

Morse had the big hit, a two-run double off flame-throwing closer Trevor Rosenthal that put the Giants on top. The eighth-inning rally started with the Giants trailing 4-3 and set to face right-handers Carlos Martinez and Rosenthal. Gregor Blanco led off with his third single of the night and with one out stole second on Yadier Molina, the game's best defensive catcher. Blanco got a great jump, and said he wasn't worried about Molina.

"As a base stealer, you don't steal on the catcher," he said. "I stole the base off the pitcher."

Martinez lost track of Blanco, then lost track of his own whereabouts when Angel Pagan followed with a single up the middle. Peter Bourjos made a strong throw home as Blanco held up at third, but Martinez didn't back up the play, instead inexplicably standing in front of Molina and deflecting the ball to the backstop. Blanco raced home to tie the game.


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"We caught a break there," manager Bruce Bochy said.

The Giants made their own luck the rest of the inning. After an intentional walk of Pablo Sandoval (who earlier had homered), Morse (who also had homered) was matched up against Rosenthal. Morse ripped a first-pitch 97 mph fastball into the home dugout.

"The guy can top out way up there. I knew he was going to come with something hard," Morse said. "After the first pitch, I figured out where I was and made an adjustment. I just tried to touch something and put it in play."

Morse's touch was violent. He smoked the next pitch, a 98 mph fastball, into the right-center field gap. As Morse raced for second, Pagan scored easily and Sandoval chugged home to give the Giants a two-run lead.

"Pablo was on his horse, man," Morse said, grinning wide. "He had his boots on and started running."

Sergio Romo kept it tight in the ninth, allowing a run to score and putting the tying run on third and the winning run on first. But Shane Robinson popped up, ending the game and giving the Giants an exhilarating win on the first night of a seven-game trip through St. Louis and Cincinnati.

"You're playing such a good team, and we play each other so well," Bochy said. "That's a great win."

The late rally got Ryan Vogelsong off the hook on a night when he felt his stuff was sharp but the results weren't always there. Vogelsong was charged with four earned in 61/3 innings, but Javier Lopez got him out of a seventh-inning jam and Jean Machi kept the Cardinals off the board until the Giants could rally.

"They picked me up big," Vogelsong said. "That's what good teams do, they pick each other up. And they picked me up big time."

  • Buster Posey was out of the starting lineup for the third time in 10 games because of nerve irritation in his lower back. Posey missed two games against the Colorado Rockies early last week and said the issue popped up again in recent days.

    "I felt pretty back to normal for a few days," he said. "(But) there's just been irritation again. Nothing crazy -- I'm just off a little bit."

    Posey was available as a pinch-hitter and emergency catcher.

  • Bochy wouldn't commit to Matt Cain as Saturday's starting pitcher, saying the staff would need to check on the right-hander one final time Friday. Cain hasn't pitched since May 21, when he strained his right hamstring. He threw on flat ground and ran sprints Thursday, but the Giants want to make sure he's 100 percent healthy before returning to the rotation. If Cain can't go Saturday, he likely will be placed on the 15-day disabled list.

  • Sandoval has driven in a run in nine straight games, the longest Giants streak since Barry Bonds had an RBI in nine straight in 2000.

    Follow Alex Pavlovic on Twitter at twitter.com/AlexPavlovic.

    FRIDAY'S GAME
    Giants (Madison Bumgarner 6-3) at St. Louis (Adam Wainwright 8-2), 5:15 p.m. CSNBA