SAN FRANCISCO -- It's not just the Cardinals' offense that's having a rough start.
Ryan Franklin blew his third save in four chances Saturday night as the Cardinals squandered a brilliant start from Jaime Garcia and lost to the Giants, 3-2, at AT&T Park. Colby Rasmus dropped Miguel Tejada's fly ball to the warning track, allowing the tying and winning runs to score with two out in the ninth inning.
All three Giants runs scored on balls that should have been caught by Cardinals outfielders.
St. Louis had taken the lead in the seventh on Rasmus' towering homer to right-center field, and until the middle of the ninth, it appeared that the blast would be the winning hit. But for the second night in a row, the Giants reached Franklin in the ninth.
"I'm having a rough time right now," Franklin said. "It's not from a lack of effort. I'm doing everything that I think I can. I don't know. It's just tough. Tough. Tough job. But I did it before and I can do it again."
Buster Posey started the rally with a one-out bloop single to right field, and Pat Burrell drew a walk. After Aaron Rowand flied out to right, Tejada stepped in. He fell behind in the count, 0-2, before working the count full. After fouling off two 3-2 pitches, Tejada lofted a ball to the wall in left-center. Rasmus tracked it down but couldn't make the catch on what was ruled a double, and the Cardinals took another agonizing defeat.
"In that spot, I know I'm facing a guy who throws a lot of strikes and the one thing that I expect from him is to see some strikes," Tejada said.
A dejected Rasmus acknowledged that he should have hauled the ball in, although it was a tough play. Left fielder Jon Jay was also closing on the ball, and both men were going hard toward the wall.
"It definitely ruined my evening," Rasmus said. "It's not going to be a fun one for the rest of the day. I hate it for us, especially the way things have been going, to have that happen. It just happened so quick."
The loss guaranteed that the Cardinals will drop their third straight series to open the season. It's the third time in just eight games that the Cardinals have seen their starting pitcher go at least six innings while allowing two or fewer runs and still lost the game.
Garcia certainly deserved better. He fanned the first three batters he faced and didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh, but until that point, he turned in a performance worthy of his exceptional rookie season. The pitcher who struggled through much of Spring Training has been nowhere to be found since the regular season started.
In two starts, Garcia has permitted a single run over 15 innings. He's racked up 18 strikeouts against three walks, allowing eight hits. It's an even hotter start than his eye-opening beginning to the 2010 season, when he permitted one run in 13 innings over two starts.
Even the run against Garcia wasn't entirely his fault. He hit Burrell with a pitch, and Tejada grounded a single through the left side. Mark DeRosa hit what should have been a fairly routine liner to right field, but Lance Berkman initially moved back on the ball. By the time he charged it, the ball bounced in front of him for a go-ahead RBI single.
"I misread it completely," Berkman said. "I thought he hit it good, [but] he hit it off the end [of the bat]. He took a big swing. It made a loud sound. So I thought he hit it good and he didn't. I got caught back and couldn't make up the ground."
Miguel Batista followed Garcia with two shutout innings, but Franklin couldn't bring it home. After converting 27 of 29 saves in 2010, he is 1-for-4 in 2011. The Cardinals have lost all three games where he has taken a blown save.
"For the last however many years, I've always been a fast starter," he said. "I've always been able to get off to a fast start, throw two or three good months in a row right at the beginning. It's tough. Real tough. I don't know. I'm going to come back tomorrow and get in here and get back to work."
Matt Cain stifled the already listing Cardinals offense through the first five innings, but for the second game in a row, St. Louis turned an early deficit into a lead.
St. Louis scored its first run without a hit. Skip Schumaker drew a leadoff walk to open the sixth, took second and third on a pair of groundouts and scored on a wild pitch. An inning later, Rasmus drilled his mammoth home run, but the Cardinals couldn't add on, and that doomed them in the ninth.
The Cardinals fell to 2-6 on the year.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer, and follow him on Twitter @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.