ST. LOUIS -- Matt Carpenter gave the Pittsburgh Pirates life in the eighth inning on Wednesday when he dropped a throw from pitcher Kevin Siegrist that allowed Francisco Cervelli to reach on what should have been an easy putout.
Carpenter took that life away later in the inning with the game-saving play that enabled the St. Louis Cardinals to post their first series sweep of the season.
Diving to his left to snag a potential three-run double by Gregory Polanco, Carpenter beat him to first base with a pop-up slide, enabling St. Louis to notch its third straight 2-1 win at Busch Stadium.
"I was just trying to make a play, make up for earlier in the inning," Carpenter said. "It's good to win these games. Other than that inning, we played good defense in this series and had good pitching."
Carpenter's glove save -- akin to the type that Jake Allen has been making across town for the St. Louis Blues in their first-round NHL playoff series against Minnesota -- lifted the Cardinals (6-9) to their third straight win.
Dexter Fowler's two solo home runs also made a winner of Michael Wacha (2-1), who gave up jone run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings with two walks and three strikeouts. Wacha got the first 10 batters he faced on only 35 pitches before Josh Bell crashed a solo home run in the fourth.
Wacha's outing capped a series which saw St. Louis starters allow only two runs in 20 innings.
"That's where we should be starting this thing every day," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Wacha was terrific. We were short a couple of arms in our bullpen and he got us to the seventh inning. We're seeing him using the slower stuff more to go with the fastball, making the cutter and curve weapons."
The Cardinals' bullpen, which was a problem in the season's first two weeks, picked up the slack nicely after Wacha's departure. Matt Bowman struck out Jordy Mercer to strand two men in the seventh, Siegrist survived his defense and control in the eighth and Trevor Rosenthal fanned two in the ninth for his first save.
Consecutive errors by Carpenter and shortstop Greg Garcia put the go-ahead runs aboard. A two-out walk to Andrew McCutchen filled the bases and caused more groaning from the crowd of 40,182. Then Carpenter restored the roar.
While Carpenter pumped his fist as he trotted back to the dugout, Polanco spiked his helmet in disgust. It capped an empty three games for Pittsburgh (6-9), which lost them all by 2-1 for the first time in franchise history.
"It's just the way the ball bounces sometimes," losing pitcher Gerrit Cole said. "We just do what we do best and keep moving forward."
Against hitters not named Fowler, Cole was in control. He struck out eight over six innings, hitting 100 mph with his fastball and allowing six hits, along with two walks.
But Fowler used two Cole fastballs as the catapult to break out of an 8-for-57 skid. Fowler lined the first one into the St. Louis bullpen in right-center in the third, then laced the second inside the right field foul pole with one out in the fifth to snap a 1-1 tie.
"I feel like I've been swinging the bat pretty well the last two days," Fowler said. "I just haven't had the results until today. I've been in ruts before and you just have to take it for what it's worth. You keep swinging the bat and the results will come."
The three victories sent the Cardinals to a four-game series in Milwaukee with a boost of confidence they sorely needed.
"We're going to put up runs, no question about it," Matheny said. "It's just a question of where in the first 12 games we hadn't been consistent with our starting pitching or the bullpen. We've been up against the wall, and guys keep responding."
NOTES: St. Louis 1B Matt Carpenter (finger) was back in the lineup Wednesday after missing two games because of bleeding and swelling after its nail was torn off by a bad-hop grounder Sunday night against the New York Yankees. He was 1-for-4. ... Pittsburgh OF Andrew McCutchen's two hits Tuesday night gave him 1,189 since the start of the 2010 season, tops among all MLB outfielders. ... Cardinals RHP Matt Bowman extended his scoreless streak to 17 2/3 innings, dating to last September, with an out on Wednesday.