Molina's three RBIs enough as Giants seal series vs. Cards

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Now that Barry Bonds is long gone, San Francisco has a lineup that hardly scares anyone. Except maybe the St. Louis Cardinals' pitching staff, which has surrendered the Giants' three biggest offensive days.

Bengie Molina hit three doubles and drove in three runs and the Giants reached season highs for runs, hits and winning margin in an 8-2 victory on Sunday.

San Francisco won the season series 4-3, with all seven games played in a span of 11 days.

The first two games this weekend were more in character for the Giants, who totaled four runs but won 3-0 behind Tim Lincecum on Saturday. In the finale, the only suspense was whether Jonathan Sanchez would qualify for his first victory as a starter since Sept. 6, 2006, at Cincinnati.

"We came out swinging," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We came in here playing a hot team and Bengie got the big hit to drive in a couple that seemed to get things contagious."

John Bowker hit his third career home run, all against the Cardinals, and Aaron Rowand drove in two runs as the Giants took two of three and handed St. Louis its first series loss of the season. Molina, a somewhat sheepish cleanup hitter, has 11 RBIs in 11 games and a team-leading 13 overall.

"I'm not a fourth hitter at all, I don't hit home runs," Molina said. "Seriously, I'm the kind of guy who is happy with the win. Getting the RBIs was huge."

Sanchez (1-1) pitched two-hit ball for five innings, but needed 101 pitches. The Cardinals did not score until getting two runs in the ninth off Vinnie Chulk.

Braden Looper (3-1) endured one of his worst outings since moving to the rotation last year, allowing seven runs on 10 hits in three-plus innings. He missed a chance to become the Cardinals' first starter to start the year 4-0 since Matt Morris in 2002.

Looper entered with a run of six consecutive April victories dating to last season, and didn't allow a run in the first three innings of his first three starts. The Giants remain the only NL team he hasn't beaten.

"I didn't get my job done, basically," Looper said. "I don't know what else to say. I basically stunk."

The Giants had 14 hits and batted around in a six-run third against Looper, who was 7-1 with a major league-best 1.82 ERA in day games last year. All of the damage was done with six consecutive hits to open the inning, including RBI doubles by Ray Durham and Molina and Bowker's two-run shot.

The Giants swung at 14 pitches in the inning, and missed only once.

"I think that six-run inning took a little starch out of us," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Their left-hander used a lot of pitches and was kind of erratic and I think we could have stayed close, but it's tough to fall that far behind."

Sanchez, who struck out five and walked four, was in danger of getting yanked with none out in the fifth after walking reliever Anthony Reyes, before Cesar Izturis' double-play ball on a full count.

"Yeah, I knew," Sanchez said. "It was 3-2 and I threw a strike so he had to swing. I get strikeouts and I walk batters, so it's hard for me to go nine innings."

A second double-play ball with two on and none out in the fourth by Troy Glaus helped Sanchez work around a hit and two walks.

Relievers Keiichi Yabu and Merkin Valdez each pitched two hitless innings. The Cardinals got four hits in the ninth, including RBI doubles by Glaus and Rico Washington, and haven't been shut out in consecutive games at home since 1999.

In two of Sanchez' first three starts, the Giants scored no runs while he was in the game.

Game notes
The Cardinals are holding off activating RHP Russ Springer (elbow) DL on Monday, wanting to see how he bounces back from another simulated effort on Monday. Springer, who was shut down for a week due to a nerve problem, threw to hitters for the first time on Saturday. ... Looper is 0-3 with a 5.65 ERA and two saves in 31 career appearances, including two starts, against the Giants. ... Bowker is 5-for-15 with three homers and nine RBIs against St. Louis. ... The Giants have won three of their last five day games after an 0-6 start. ... Emmanuel Burriss, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Fresno prior to the game, made his major league debut in the ninth at SS for the Giants. His parents were there to witness it, flying in from Washington, D.C. ... Cardinals LHP Ron Villone had five strikeouts in three relief innings, two off his career high in 1999.