SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants should have known this game would be different in the first inning.
That's when the St. Louis Cardinals' Carlos Beltran hit an RBI single off Ryan Vogelsong, representing the first time a Giants starting pitcher allowed an earned run this young season.
The rest of the Giants couldn't bail out Vogelsong on Saturday, as the Cardinals went ahead with a three-run fifth to help hand San Francisco its first loss at AT&T Park this season, 6-3. It's now tied one game apiece in this three-game, home-opening series.
Even with Tim Lincecum's uneven start in Wednesday's 5-3 win, the Giants were appreciative of quality starting pitching through their first four games, which included two shutouts.
Vogelsong struggled in completing the first rotation turn this season, going 5 1/3 innings and allowing five runs, nine hits and two walks while striking out six. Meanwhile, St. Louis starter Shelby Miller succeeded in just his second career start, taming the Giants bats by allowing two runs, four hits and four walks while striking out four in his 5 1/3 innings.
After the loss, the Giants felt Vogelsong pitched well enough to win, and the hops didn't quite go their way against the Cardinals.
They have a valid point if looking at the fifth inning, which the Giants began ahead, 2-1. With two outs and runners on first and third, Matt Holliday tied it with an RBI single to left that plated Pete Kozma, who led off the frame with a single. After Holliday, Allen Craig grounded a single when third baseman Pablo Sandoval dove left and was unable to handle the ball, which would have been a tough play to throw the runner out at first. The next batter, Beltran, singled to right and brought in two more, making it 4-2.
The Giants could not come back, and Sandoval was in the middle of a difficult play.
"It's a tough read for the infielders," manager Bruce Bochy said. "[Shortstop Brandon] Crawford was there [behind Sandoval], but I don't know if Pablo realized it. He was trying.
"It's a fine line in this game."
Vogelsong said he was trying a little too hard in the first inning, going for too much break on his breaking pitches, but he settled down.
"I just didn't make enough pitches," Vogelsong said. "It's what it comes down to. I didn't feel like I pitched terrible. It was just one of those days."
Still, San Francisco couldn't keep up against Miller, even with solo home runs by Hunter Pence in the second inning and Sandoval in the eighth. Although Sandoval was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and he and Pence knocked their second homers of the season, Giants hitters went 7-for-33 at the plate and 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Miller's "got good stuff," said Buster Posey, who was 1-for-4 with a double and one strikeout. "He stayed out of the middle of the plate."
The Giants had four hits through the first seven innings and threatened in the eighth off reliever Edward Mujica. Sandoval led off by jacking a home run to make it 5-3, and Posey followed with his double. But Pence struck out, and Brandon Belt and pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez flied out.
The Cardinals got to Vogelsong in the first inning. Matt Carpenter singled, and Vogelsong struck out the next batter, but Carpenter advanced to second on a passed ball. Carpenter reached third on a wild pitch, and Vogelsong walked the next batter, Craig. Beltran followed by lofting a 3-2 offering over second baseman Marco Scutaro, scoring Carpenter for the 1-0 lead.
Pence led off the second with his homer to right-center, tying the game.
In the third, Sandoval singled on a 2-2 curveball to score Angel Pagan from second and give the Giants the lead, 2-1.
With a 4-2 lead after the fifth, St. Louis added another run in the sixth. Daniel Descalso singled to lead off and stole second base, then Kozma brought him in with a clean single to left, extending the lead to 5-2. After getting Miller to strike out on a bunt attempt, Volgesong was pulled in favor of reliever Jose Mijares, who elicited two flyouts to end the inning.
The Giants had something going in the sixth when Pence walked with one out and stole second, and Belt walked to end Miller's outing. Left-hander Randy Choate relieved Miller and faced right-handed pinch-hitter Joaquin Arias, who on the first pitch lined one into the diving Craig's glove as Belt was doubled off to end the threat.
Cardinals reliever Mitchell Boggs pitched the ninth, allowing one hit and striking out one to notch his first save of the season.
"You had Vogelsong going who has pitched a lot of big games against us, [so] to come away with a win today is huge and gives us a chance to win the series tomorrow," Boggs said. "For me personally, it was good to go out there and have a good inning."
Now the Giants have a chance to win the series in Sunday's rubber game. Bochy, who saw players put a good bat on the ball -- Belt was 0-for-3 yet hit the ball hard -- feels like the Giants will get it turned around offensively.
"It's just getting into the rhythm," Bochy said. "We'll get it going."
Willie Bans is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.