The Kansas City Royals figured they had a chance against the St. Louis Cardinals when they knocked starter Adam Wainwright from the game, the meeting of Interstate 70 rivals reduced to a battle of the bullpens.
It was the Kansas City relief corps that wilted first.
Matt Carpenter had a career-high five hits, including the go-ahead double in the 11th inning, and the Cardinals beat the Royals 5-2 on Wednesday night to snap a three-game losing streak.
"Wainwright pitched a great game. He's an unbelievable pitcher," said Lorenzo Cain, who hit the tying single in the ninth for Kansas City. "When we tied the game, I thought we had them. We tried to spoil it for him at the end, almost pulled away with it, but fell short."
After the teams traded a pair of scoreless innings, Peter Bourjos worked a one-out walk off Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera (1-2) in the 11th. Carpenter then rapped his double to center field, drawing a roar from a crowd comprised mostly of Cardinals fans.
Allen Craig added a two-run single off Tim Collins later in the inning, and Pat Neshek breezed through the bottom half to end the Royals' six-game winning streak against National League clubs.
Sam Freeman (1-0) earned the win with a perfect 10th inning.
"It was just one of those gut-check games," Craig said. "We're not going to stop competing."
Carpenter became the first Cardinal to record five hits in a game since Ryan Ludwick on Sept. 4, 2009. He had a part in his club's first three runs, driving in Mark Ellis in the second inning and scoring on Matt Holliday's groundout in the seventh
The Cardinals persevered after Wainwright blew a 2-0 lead in the ninth inning. He struck out Eric Hosmer to start it, but the ball squirted away from catcher Yadier Molina, allowing Hosmer to reach first base. Billy Butler followed with a crisp single up the middle.
Trevor Rosenthal, who took the loss Tuesday night, entered in relief and walked Alex Gordon on a full count to load the bases. Salvador Perez followed with a broken-bat groundout to score a run, and Cain's single up the middle knotted the game 2-all.
"You lose the lead and a start like that from Waino, there's a lot of teams that will roll over in that situation," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, "but the guys stepped up."
The ninth-inning rally still soured a dazzling outing by Wainwright, who was trying to become the NL's first nine-game winner. The two-time All-Star did not allow a hit until the sixth inning, stranded three runners on third base and struck out eight while walking just two.
"Wainwright was phenomenal," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "What makes him so good is he spots his fastball well, but he's got out-pitches with his cutter and curveball. He doesn't make mistakes."
Wainwright wasn't the only Cardinal to get on track, though.
Molina had hits in his first two at-bats, snapping an 0-for-16 streak. Ellis ended an 0-for-8 stretch with his single in the second that led to the game's first run.
Jason Vargas kept Kansas City in it most of the night. After leaving the bases loaded in the first inning, he went on strand 10 in a season-high eight innings. The left-hander allowed nine hits and walked two while allowing two runs or fewer for the fifth time in six starts.
"Carpenter was pretty hot," Vargas said. "It was just one of those games where you've got to grind, make pitches and kind of think your way through things."
NOTES: Vargas threw a season-high 117 pitches. ... Royals RHP Greg Holland pitch a scoreless 10th, his 11th straight appearance without allowing a run. ... LHP Bruce Chen (bulging disc) said he will need at least two more rehab starts before rejoining the Royals. He allowed eight hits in three innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Tuesday night. ... Cardinals 2B Kolten Wong was out of the lineup with a sore right shoulder. He pinch hit for Ellis in the 10th inning and remained in the game. ... RHP Michael Wacha starts for St. Louis in Thursday's series finale. RHP Yordano Ventura is on the mound for Kansas City.