Atlanta scored six runs in the sixth inning, sending 10 hitters to the plate and taking advantage of a dropped fly ball by right fielder Jon Jay to rally for a much-needed 8-6 victory Friday night.
"That was huge," said Brooks Conrad, who sparked the big inning with a pinch-hit single. "Every one from here on out is huge. Now we're looking to string a few together."
The Braves appeared headed for their seventh loss in nine games when they fell behind 4-1 in the fourth. They gave up a two-run homer to Matt Holliday and a two more RBIs to Carpenter, who began the night hitting .098 but had a run-scoring single and the second homer of his career batting in the eighth spot.
Carpenter (15-6) couldn't back up his good work at the plate. The Braves closed to 4-2 in the fourth on Brian McCann's run-scoring single and then knocked out the St. Louis starter in the sixth.
Atlanta remained one game behind the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies, which beat the New York Mets 8-4. St. Louis fell to six games behind the Cincinnati Reds, who beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 in 12 innings, in the NL Central.
"It was a great comeback against a great pitcher," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "We've just been on this little losing streak, and we needed to snap it."
McCann followed with a deep fly ball to right that would've brought in a run, since Heyward was tagging, but wound up driving in both runners when Jay dropped the ball just short of the wall. McCann rumbled all the way to third and trotted home on Derrek Lee's run-scoring single.
"He's a good outfielder," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said of Jay. "He [usually] makes that play. That's baseball. A six-spot is tough to accept. It should have been a three-spot."
That wasn't the only break for the Braves. Conrad appeared to be picked off at second on a throw from catcher Yadier Molina, but umpire Bill Welke called the runner safe. Even Conrad looked a bit surprised by the call, the tag appearing to get him on the right shoulder just before he scrambled back to the bag.
Carpenter was lifted after Lee's hit, having failed to get an out in the sixth. He was charged with six earned runs and eight hits. Melky Cabrera added a sacrifice fly before Conrad, batting for the second time, hit a flyout that finally ended the inning.
St. Louis scored a pair of runs off Jonny Venters in the seventh, but Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner closed out the Cardinals, with Wagner earning his 33rd save in 40 chances. Atlanta won its major league-leading 50th home game.
Carpenter allowed more than three earned runs for the first time since July 3, a span of 12 starts.
"I felt good. My stuff was good," he said. "It was bad timing to have an inning like that."
La Russa's unorthodox lineup, revived for the series in Atlanta in hopes of sparking his slumping team, appeared to backfire when Carpenter, batting just .098 (6-for-61), came up in the second with two outs and two runners aboard.
Not so fast. Carpenter lined a single to left to put the Cardinals ahead.
After the Braves tied it on Nate McLouth's long homer in the bottom half, Holliday hit a drive over the center-field wall for his 26th homer.
Then it was Carpenter's turn to go deep. Minor left a fastball out over the plate and his counterpart, swinging late but making good contact, sent a drive to right that just cleared the wall over a leaping Heyward. Carpenter made an extremely slow trot around the bases, thoroughly savoring the moment.
It didn't last.
Right-hander Jake Westbrook will have an extra mouth to feed when he starts Saturday for the Cardinals. His wife, Heather, delivered the couple's third child on Thursday, a girl named Harper. ... Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton was ejected by first-base umpire Jim Reynolds in the third inning for arguing over a checked swing by Albert Pujols. Reynolds ruled that Pujols didn't go around, Pendleton began shouting from the dugout and the umpire quickly gave him the heave. The ump even waved at Pendleton and mouthed, "Bye, bye." ... Outfielder Skip Schumaker didn't start for St. Louis despite hitting a homer in the series opener. Russa didn't want to use the left-handed hitter against the Braves' lefty starter. Schumaker will be in the lineup for the final two games of the series against right-handers Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson.