ST. LOUIS — The Rays went ahead early, got a strong start and saw their bullpen let a small lead get away for a second straight game Sunday.
Only this time they walked off the field with their heads high after rallying for a 3-2 10-inning victory over the Cardinals and a series win.
Logan Morrison delivered the decisive run, a one-out homer in the 10th that was his second of the game and 31st of the season. Alex Colome finished for his majors-most 39th save.
The outcome appeared headed the other way after the eighth, when lefty reliever Dan Jennings came on with a 2-1 lead and promptly allowed a tying homer to Matt Carpenter.
The win improved the Rays to 65-67 as they headed to Kansas City, where they face the challenge of not just a Royals team ahead of them in the American League wild-card standings — though in their own slump — but a 1-15 record in their last 16 games there.
The rally kept the Rays from wasting the long and strong start they needed and got from Chris Archer, who held the Cardinals to just one run over seven innings, scattering five hits while striking out eight.
With solid outings from both starters, Archer and Cardinals veteran Lance Lynn, there was not a lot of early offense.
The Rays took the lead in the fourth on a leadoff homer by Morrison, his 30th of the season overall though only the fourth in his past 34 games. (It also was his 21st on the road.)
They doubled the margin when Brad Miller did the same to open the seventh with his sixth of the season, a follow-up to his two-hit Saturday that the Rays hope is a sign of a warming trend.
That mattered because Archer made a rare mistake in the seventh, allowing a one-out homer in the seventh to Kolten Wong, the older brother of Rays prospect Kean Wong.
The Rays had a chance for more when they loaded the bases in the eighth during a sequence when manager Kevin Cash made the unusual move of pinch-hitting for Corey Dickerson against lefty reliever Zach Duke.
After the Cardinals changed pitchers, the Rays ended up with Lucas Duda hitting against John Brebbia and walking, though the threat ended when Miller struck out.
That inability to convert became more costly when Jennings allowed the homer to Carpenter on his second pitch.
After Saturday's crushing defeat, in which the Rays took a 4-2 lead into the eighth and ended up losing 6-4 on a two-run walkoff homer in the ninth, Cash openly acknowledged Sunday morning the importance of winning the game, thus the series.
"Pretty big," Cash said. "We've got two really good pitchers throwing, they're having good seasons. We're excited that we've at least put ourselves in the position that we can win a series here. Last night was obviously tough but I have confidence in the guys to be able to rebound, to bounce back and find a way to get a win behind Chris Archer."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.