ST. LOUIS -- Kolten Wong's home run with one out in the 14th inning Sunday gave the Cardinals a 3-2 victory over the Pirates and extended to six a winning streak half-comprised of pulsating, extra-inning walk-off wins over Pittsburgh.
Wong's smash off Radhames Liz into the right-field seats above the Cardinals' bullpen punctuated an astonishingly well-pitched series in which St. Louis starters and relievers performed up to their National League-best ranking. Sunday's win followed 2-1 wins in 10 innings on Friday and in 11 innings on Saturday for St. Louis.
"Wow. I think that's all I got -- wow," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said on sweeping the series with three walk-offs.
Peter Bourjos' infield single with the bases loaded had driven in the tying run in the bottom of the 12th, after Pedro Alvarez had given the Bucs a 2-1 lead with a two-out homer in the top of the inning.
The starting pitchers set the tone for another afternoon of impressive pitching in a series that saw the teams combine for 11 runs in 35 innings. Michael Wacha allowed five hits in his 6 2/3 shutout innings, with two walks and two strikeouts. Pittsburgh starter Worley tendered six innings of four-hit pitching, with one walk and five strikeouts.
"We just finished playing arguably the team playing the best baseball in our league and went with them for three straight days, and came up one run short each time," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Carpenter goes deep: Carpenter's leadoff home run in the fourth not only gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead, but it ended a streak of 95 consecutive innings without a home run given up by Pirates pitchers.
Pitcher picture: Worley finished off one of the most brilliant series ever by Pittsburgh starting pitchers. Among them, A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Worley allowed the Cardinals two runs in 20 innings (0.90 ERA). Net result? Zero wins. More >
Kang's first one is a big one: The Korean infielder's big league transition looked pretty good in the ninth inning, when he unloaded for his first Major League homer in dramatic and prodigious fashion. More >
Keeping the Bucs bats down: Cardinals pitching gave up four runs in 35 innings during the three-game series against the Pirates for a 1.03 ERA. Cardinals starters Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Wacha combined for a 0.92 ERA. More >
"I always had World Cup soccer on my bucket list, and I just got a weekend of it." -- Hurdle, on the low-scoring intensity of the series
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With the Cubs losing to Milwaukee, the Cardinals move 4.5 games up in the Central division, matching the Cardinals' largest division lead last year held from Sept. 7-9.
The Pirates' last four and six of their last nine losses in Busch Stadium have been administered in walk-off fashion. Since the start of the 2013 season, the Cardinals have a total of 15 walk-off wins, and eight of those have come against the Bucs.
CARPENTER'S EARLY EXIT
Carpenter left the game in the seventh after experiencing lightheadedness. He had homered in the fourth and was 1-for-3 with two strikeouts before leaving the game. Wong entered the game at second and Pete Kozma moved to third to take Carpenter's spot.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: After Monday's off-day, the Bucs kick off a six-game homestand vs. division foes Cincinnati and St. Louis. Jeff Locke is set to meet the Reds in Tuesday's opener of that PNC Park series at 7:05 p.m. ET. The lefty will be looking for his sixth victory in his past seven home decisions.
Cardinals: On Monday at 7:10 p.m. CT, the Cardinals open up a four-game set at home against the second-place Cubs. Righty Carlos Martinez will get the start for the Cardinals and is looking to run his record to 4-0 and turn in his fifth quality start in as many attempts this season.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.