That was the case even in the ninth, which opened with a double from Jeremy Hazelbaker, who picked a timely spot for his first Major League hit. Summoned to sacrifice him over to third as the potential go-ahead run, Kolten Wong popped out to the pitcher.
Two fly-ball outs later and Hazelbaker had never moved.
"In games like this," manager Mike Matheny said, "you have to do the little things right."
A dominant bullpen covered for the stalling offense until the 11th, when a bang-bang play turned the inning -- and the game -- in the Pirates' favor. With one on and one out in Seth Maness' second inning of work, Josh Harrison rolled a ground ball up the middle. Jedd Gyorko, who had shifted from second to short midgame, showed excellent range to make a diving stop but struggled to flip the ball to Wong.
Instead, it rolled. And by the time Wong picked it up, Gregory Polanco had slid safely into second.
"It kind of got stuck in my glove a little bit," said Gyorko, who had earlier connected for a two-run homer, the first blast of the Cardinals' season. "I made that play like a week ago down in Florida. It's in there. I just have to get it out of my glove a little bit smoother.
A replay review confirmed that the Cardinals were just a split-second late in their forceout attempt.
"We had 50-50, and at that point, we have nothing to lose," Matheny said of challenging the call. "[We were hoping] maybe they can see something that we didn't."
The play proved to be a game changer, as five pitches later, Jordy Mercer lined a ball down the right-field line to plate Polanco.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.