Not only did St. Louis cough up a four-run lead on its way to a 7-5 defeat at Busch Stadium, it might have also lost its only All-Star Game representative for a while.
Second baseman Matt Carpenter suffered a right oblique injury on a half-swing at a Jeff Locke pitch in the bottom of the third inning and left the game. He was sent for more tests, including a trip into an MRI tube, but further details weren't available after the game.
"High level of concern," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Carpenter's injury.
The last time Carpenter suffered an oblique strain was in 2012, and he missed more than a month. Any length of absence will be a critical blow to a team which is already minus several key pieces due to injury or illness, and has yet to show the consistency needed to make a playoff push.
It appeared St. Louis (43-41) would at least overcome Carpenter's loss for a game as it presented starter Jaime Garcia, who entered the night with an 0.57 ERA in six career games against Pittsburgh (43-40), with a 5-1 advantage after a four-run fourth.
But Garcia lasted just one more inning and two batters into the sixth, and a suddenly shaky bullpen hacked up the 5-2 lead he gave it before it recorded the seventh inning's second out.
After Josh Harrison and Sean Rodriguez singled home runs in the sixth to draw the Pirates within a run, Jung Ho Kang put them ahead to stay when he laced a two-run double in the seventh off Jonathan Broxton (1-1). Kang later scored on a two-out error by shortstop Aledmys Diaz.
It was the first RBI and extra-base hit for Kang since June 24 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Prior to his double, Kang was locked in a 5-for-37 slump.
"I've been watching a lot of videos with our hitting coach," Kang said through an interpreter. "I felt it click yesterday. I can't really describe the click, but I felt it in the box."
Kang's new-found click meant the Pittsburgh bullpen could lock up another win. Throwing five shutout innings after starter Jeff Locke left for a pinch-hitter, the Pirates' relief corps added to their amazing run in which they've allowed only one run in their last 45 1/3 innings, dating back to June 24.
A.J. Schugel (2-2) picked up the win with a clean sixth and Mark Melancon worked around a pinch-hit leadoff single by Tommy Pham in the ninth for his 26th save in 27 chances.
"To win after you get down 5-1 here doesn't happen often," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "We had quality at-bats and never backed away. When you have the mentality of passing the baton, it builds an inning."
Diaz answered David Freese's solo shot with one of his own in the third, then the Cardinals peppered Locke with six singles in the fourth. Jedd Gyorko, Kolten Wong and Diaz knocked in runs with their singles, and Garcia helped his cause with a sacrifice fly.
But Garcia allowed a leadoff homer to Rodriguez in the fifth, then walked Andrew McCutchen and Kang to start the sixth. The Pirates' offense and St. Louis' bullpen took it over from there.
"Obviously, not very good," Garcia said. "I didn't get the job done."
Garcia allowed four runs on four hits and three walks, fanning six. Locke was charged with five runs off eight hits and a walk, striking out three.
As he left the mound after the fourth inning, Locke got encouragement from Harrison.
"He said to hang in there," Locke said. "We'll pick you up."
By doing so, Pittsburgh climbed into second place in the National League Central, a half-game over the Cardinals. It can notch its first four-game sweep in St. Louis Thursday since 1997.
NOTES: Pittsburgh will call up RHP Tyler Glasnow, considered by some as the top prospect in all of minor league baseball, from Triple-A Indianapolis to start Thursday. The Pirates recalled LHP Kyle Lobstein from Indianapolis, sending LHP Steven Brault, Tuesday night's starter, to Indy. ... St. Louis placed C Brayan Pena (left knee inflammation) on the 15-day DL Wednesday and purchased C Alberto Rosario from Triple-A Memphis. ... Cardinals 3B Jhonny Peralta (left thumb) wasn't in the lineup Wednesday after leaving Tuesday night's game following three innings.