For much of Tuesday's game, the Pirates appeared destined to continue their recent trend of dominance over the division-rival Cardinals.
Then, something strange happened. Pittsburgh left fielder Starling Marte dropped a routine fly ball in the ninth inning, which led to the tying run, and the Cardinals went on to win a 14-inning thriller.
With the second of the three-game series set for Wednesday night, the Cardinals -- now two games back of the first-place Bucs -- are hoping that's the game that turns the tide in the division.
The Pirates, meanwhile, are hoping for more of what they saw during the first four months of the season. Overall, Pittsburgh is 7-4 against St. Louis this year, including wins in six of the last eight games.
"Our approach doesn't change because we're playing the second-place team," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We need to play 27 outs on defense and try to get one more run than the other teams. But that's a constant, no matter who we're playing.
"But since I've been here, we've showed up well against the Cardinals."
That's an understatement. Three of the club's 14 shutouts this year have come against the Cardinals.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny is aware of the poor numbers against Pittsburgh and said his club came into the series eager to change them.
"We're not oblivious to standings and not oblivious to how this all plays out, but as far as application goes, yeah it's just one game at a time," Matheny said. "But I do know that all of us walked out of Pittsburgh excited about playing them again -- looking forward to showing them a different style -- the kind of style that we've had all season long, which is a much better game of baseball."
Shelby Miller left his last start after just two pitches when he took a line drive off his right elbow, but he was playing catch within 24 hours. He's thrown two bullpen sessions since, one on Friday and another on Sunday, and said he's feeling fine for Wednesday.
"It just surprised me that it didn't hurt worse that it did as far as healing-wise," Miller said. "Throwing the bullpen, my arm felt good, so nothing surprised there. But yeah, I was a little surprised that it healed so far."
Miller is 0-2 vs. Pittsburgh this season. He gave up two runs in six innings in Pittsburgh on April 17 and allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings vs. the Pirates at home on April 28.
"I've faced them two times already this year, so I've got a pretty good idea of what I need to do against them," Miller said. "Obviously they're playing way better than they were early on when I faced them. They're a great ballclub."
Pirates starter Francisco Liriano had the worst start of his career in a loss to the Rockies on Friday, surrendering 10 runs and 12 hits in 2 1/3 innings. Liriano struggled to command any pitches, as his ERA climbed from 2.02 to 2.83.
Pirates: Roller-coaster for Marte against Cards
Marte posted one of his worst games of the season on Tuesday night, going 0-for-4 and making the critical ninth-inning error. But for most of the season, he has played well against the division-rival Cardinals.
Marte had hit safely in each of his 10 games against St. Louis this year, and overall he's hitting .341 against the club with two doubles, two triples and four stolen bases.
• Liriano has gotten a decision in each of his 17 starts, the longest such streak for a Pirates pitcher since Vernon Law picked up a decision in his first 19 (10-9) in 1965.
• Andrew McCutchen is hitting .364 in 37 games since July 1.
Cardinals: Holliday streaking
• Matt Holliday went 2-for-4 on Tuesday night to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. He has recorded two hits in each of his last five games.
• Jon Jay went 4-for-6 on Tuesday and has hit safely in 12 of his last 15 games. He has multi-hit games in five of his last 11.
• Since the beginning of last year, Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez has notched eight home runs and 32 RBIs against St. Louis.
• Twenty-three of the last 32 games played by the Pirates have been decided by one or two runs.
• Jose Tabata, who was scratched with flu-like symptoms in the series opener, has hit safely in 21 of his 23 career games at Busch Stadium.
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.