MIAMI — Even Matt Carpenter has been surprised by the run he has been on.
Carpenter, who has won two of the last three NL Player of the Week awards, hit his 30th home run, a tiebreaking drive in the eighth inning that lifted the St. Louis Cardinals over the Miami Marlins 3-2 on Tuesday night.
"I couldn't imagine the stretch I'm putting together," Carpenter said. "I would have never guessed that. It's uncharted territory for me. But at the same time, in May, when I was struggling, I knew I was close. I knew I was going to turn it around to the extend that it has I couldn't have guessed that. But it's been fun."
Carpenter sent a shot off Elieser Hernandez (2-6) into the Cardinals bullpen in right field homering for the fourth time in five games and increased his career high for home runs. Several St. Louis relievers celebrated with their arms in the air.
"We talked about sample size when you have a guy that's been in the league for a period of time and been in MVP conversation before, you can't be surprised," Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt said. "I'm not. We're not. Rough start, but body of work speaks for the fact that he is going to come back and do what he's doing now."
The home run almost did not happen. Carpenter looked at a pitch thinking it was ball four, but it was called a strike setting up a 3-2 offering.
"It turned out better," Carpenter said. "I just wanted to get on base and a chance to score. I thought it was up, but it worked out OK."
Carpenter also extended his streak of reaching base safely to 26 games, tying a career high and is the longest active string in the majors.
"Obviously he's a tough guy because he kind of crowds you at the plate and he's not really a chaser so he makes you throw the ball over," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "There's places to get him, but you've got to make pitches and even the last one is not terrible, but he gets it outer-third probably and we want to try to get the ball up right there. If he gets the ball up, he probably beats him or at least can't turn it over right there, but I think that's the challenge with him. He's a guy that knows the strike zone, you know exactly what type of hitter he is and basically what he's trying to do, but you've got to make pitches."
Paul DeJong hit a tying, two-run homer in the seventh for the Cardinals, who have won eight of 12.
"Success breeds energy and excitement," Carpenter said. "We're certainly playing well and that's exciting. We're starting to get in a little roll."
Marcell Ozuna had a pair of hits and is 5 for 8 in his first two games at Marlins Park since being traded by Miami to St. Louis in the offseason.
Miles Mikolas (12-3) pitched seven innings, allowing two runs and five hits.
"He pitched great," Shildt said. "Ahead of the count, had pitches working. Long first inning but he settled down, used his defense, keeps guys engaged which typically helps the defense."
Dakota Hudson pitched the eighth for St. Louis and was aided by an impressive defensive play when center fielder Harrison Bader charged in and made a diving catch to take a hit away from Martin Prado. Bud Norris worked around a walk and a wild pitch in the ninth for his 22nd save in 25 chances.
Pablo Lopez pitched seven innings and issued a walk before DeJong's homer.
"I think I let the game speed up on me a little bit," Lopez said. "It was late in the game and my pitch count was high so I didn't have my best execution."
Derek Dietrich had three hits for the Marlins, who have lost seven of eight.
Justin Bour hit an RBI single in the Miami first after Dietrich led off with a hit. JT Riddle tripled to begin the fifth and scored on a single by Miguel Rojas.
Mikolas wanted to make it a point to work quick in the two-hour, 34-minute contest because of his 1-year old daughter.
"It was my daughter's first baseball game so I knew her bed time is early so I wanted to made sure she caught as much of the game as possible before she had to go to bed," Mikolas said.
BARRACLOUGH NO LONGER THE CLOSER
After being removed in the ninth of Monday's win, Mattingly announced before the game that struggling reliever Kyle Barraclough will no longer be the team's closer. Barraclough has blown his last three save opportunities and has a 23.14 ERA in his previous six outings.
Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (elbow) threw a bullpen session of about 40 pitches. "Positive, I got just initial feedback that his bullpen went well today," interim manager Mike Shildt said. "He's going up to the complex in Jupiter and getting some more work and see where it goes, but he's very optimistic and is taking steps in the right direction."
Cardinals: RHP John Gant (3-4, 4.12 ERA) is slated to start Wednesday's series finale and will be looking to bounce back after allowing six runs in four innings at Pittsburgh in his last start.
Marlins: RHP Trevor Richards (3-6, 3.92) is 1-1 with a 0.76 ERA in his last four starts.