Game Report: Cardinals 9, Pirates 7

The Cardinals were one strike away from losing a game Tuesday night they once led 5-0, a loss that would have dropped them back into a tie for the second wild-card spot.

But the story of this season for the Cardinals has been the ability to hit home runs, and when they needed it the most, they came through against the Pirates in Pittsburgh.

With two outs and nobody on in the top of the ninth, and down 0-2 in the count, Matt Carpenter tied the game 6-6 with his first career pinch-hit homer, also the first time in his career he had tied a game with a home run in the ninth inning or later.

Yadier Molina followed with his fourth hit, and second double of the game, before Randal Grichuk broke the tie with a two-run homer. Jhonny Peralta then capped the inning with a shot over the right-field wall, the first time the Cardinals had ever hit three home runs in the ninth inning to come from behind and win a game, according to records dating back to 1930 on Baseball Reference.com.

Carpenter’s homer also was the 15th of the year for the Cardinals as a pinch-hitter, which established a major-league record.

The Cardinals had built their early lead on a grand slam by Molina in the first inning and a solo shot from Matt Adams in the third as they tied the NL record by hitting at least one homer in their 25th consecutive game. They are now just two games shy of tying the major-league mark set by the Texas Rangers in 2002.

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate
: Molina’s grand slam was the fourth of his career, and first since 2012. He later singled in the fifth and doubled in the seventh before his ninth-inning double gave him his 17th career four-hit game and first since 2013. It was the first time in his career he had three extra-base hits in a game, and his seventh inning double missed being a home run by only a couple of feet … It was the fourth time this season the Cardinals have hit five or more home runs in a game, and their season total rose to 201 … They have now hit 20 home runs in the ninth inning, 23 in the ninth inning or later … Two hitters who did not join in the fun were Brandon Moss, who was 0-for-4 and is now hitless in his last 22 at-bats, and Tommy Pham, who struck out in the eighth to extend his hitless streak to 19 consecutive at-bats.

On the mound
: The beneficiary of the Cardinals rally was Mike Mayers, promoted from Memphis on Tuesday, who earned his first major-league win after pitching a 1-2-3 eighth inning. It was his second career appearance, having given up nine runs in 1 1/3 innings in a start against the Dodgers on July 24 … Luke Weaver made the start and lasted only four innings, leaving with a 5-2 lead, but the Pirates took the lead with four runs in the fifth off Matt Bowman … Zach Duke, Kevin Siegrist and Mayers kept it a one-run game going into the ninth … Seung Hwan Oh earned the save, despite giving up a home run to Jung Ho Kang, also from South Korea, his second homer of the game.

Key stat:
The Cardinals’ ninth inning rally came against Tony Watson, who came into the game having faced the Cardinals 47 times, covering 49 innings, and had only allowed two home runs and six earned runs in his career, an ERA of 1.09. In 37 games since the start of the 2013 season, Watson had allowed a total of one run against the Cardinals … The Cardinals’ previous homers off Watson were by Matt Holliday in 2011 and Rafael Furcal in 2012.

Of note:
The last time the Cardinals hit three home runs in the ninth inning was on Oct. 1, 2006, against Milwaukee. Chris Duncan, Albert Pujols and Scott Spiezio all hit solo shots in game the Cardinals were losing 5-0 … The last time the Cardinals hit three home runs off one pitcher in one inning was against David Aardsma of the Cubs on Aug. 18, 2006 … From 2012 to 2013, the Cardinals played 12 consecutive games in Pittsburgh without hitting a home run … Jose Martinez became the 11th Cardinal to make his major-league debut this season when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh … Left-hander Austin Gomber, who split this season between Palm Beach and Springfield, was added to the list of Cardinals prospects who will be playing in the Arizona Fall League … The Cardinals announced that they will play exhibition games in Memphis on March 30 next year and in Springfield on March 31 at the end of spring training.

Looking ahead: Mike Leake will come off the disabled list to make the start Wednesday night in the final game of the series and the road trip. Jameson Taillon is scheduled to start for the Pirates, who have lost eight consecutive games.