Matt Carpenter's first three at-bats were miserable, forgettable and completely unproductive.
He more than made up for them with one swing.
Carpenter hit a two-run homer off reliever Marc Rzepczynski in the eighth inning after Cleveland replaced starter Trevor Bauer, rallying the St. Louis Cardinals to a 2-1 win over the Indians on Thursday.
Bauer struck out Carpenter three times and blanked St. Louis on four hits over 7 1-3 innings before giving up a one-out walk to Peter Bourjos. Indians manager Terry Francona brought in the left-handed Rzepczynski (1-1) to face Carpenter, a lefty, who drove a 2-1 pitch over the wall in right-center - just above outfielder Michael Bourn's glove - to help the Cardinals win the series after being overpowered by Corey Kluber on Wednesday night.
''Obviously, I wasn't happy with the way the day was going,'' Carpenter said. ''What turned it around for me was the Bourjos at-bat. That kind of rejuvenated me. I knew I needed to follow up with another good at-bat and we had a chance to maybe do something. I was able to lay off a couple of tough sinkers and get one up in the zone.''
It's the first homer Rzepczysnki has given up to a left-handed hitter since June 12, 2012, when he was with the Cardinals.
''My job is to get that guy out,'' Rzepczynski. ''I fell behind with a couple good sinkers that he laid off. And then I tried to go again and it's probably the straightest ball I've thrown in a long time.''
Kevin Siegrist (2-0) pitched two scoreless innings, and Trevor Rosenthal put the tying run on with one out in the ninth before striking out pinch-hitter Zach Walters and Jason Kipnis for his 12th save.
Michael Brantley homered for the Indians, who haven't won consecutive games since April 8-9.
Following Kluber's 18-strikeout performance, Bauer fanned 10, allowed just four hits and deserved a better fate. He kicked the dirt on the mound in frustration after walking Peter Bourjos on his 110th pitch, knowing Francona was coming to get him. Carpenter made things worse with his sixth homer, a shot that helped ease the sting for the Cardinals, who struck out 30 times in two games.
Carpenter recently sat out a three-game series in Pittsburgh with what the Cardinals described as ''extreme fatigue.'' Carpenter had been dizzy and light-headed in the days leading up to staying behind when the team traveled.
''It feels great,'' Carpenter said. ''I hate not being out here every day, missing time. Any chance you can come out here play and not only help us win a game but win a series, it's a big deal. I'm pretty happy with the way it played out.''
Brantley snapped a scoreless tie with his fourth homer to open the sixth against Michael Wacha, who settled in after two shaky innings and gave up five hits in five-plus innings.
The Indians had other scoring chances, but had three runners thrown out, including two on rundowns between third and home.
Cleveland's hitters made Wacha work, forcing him to throw 59 pitches in the first two innings. However, the Indians wasted a one-out triple by Michael Bourn in the second with a poorly executed bunt by Jose Ramirez. Bourn broke late on the apparent squeeze and got tagged out in a rundown.
St. Louis didn't fare any better against Bauer, who followed Kluber's gem with his best since holding Houston without a hit for six innings in his season debut.
''We faced some really tough pitching,'' Carpenter said. ''They were nasty. Somehow we found a way to win two.''
The Cardinals are 9-1-1 in series and improved to 5-0 in games on Thursday.
NO HOLLIDAY OFF
Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday talked himself into the lineup as DH after getting hit on the left elbow by Kluber. Holliday has reached base safely in 32 straight games, the longest streak in the majors this season and the third longest to start a season in club history. Albert Pujols had a 42-game streak in 2008 and 33-gamer in 2005.
Cardinals: OF Jon Jay went on the 15-day disabled list with a sore left wrist. Jay had surgery on the wrist in October, and he's hoping some rest will alleviate soreness.
Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martinez (3-1), who has posted a 14.00 ERA in his past two starts, opens a three-game series in Detroit. He has never faced the Tigers.
Indians: LHP Bruce Chen (0-1) tries to bounce back from a rocky debut with Cleveland, the veteran's 11th team, in the opener of a three-game series at Texas.
Link to box score: St. Louis (24-10) 2 at Cleveland (12-21) 1