Carpenter held the Pirates to three hits and struck out a career-high 13 in seven shutout innings in his best start since April, and Rolen had four hits to lead St. Louis past Pittsburgh 2-1 Tuesday night.
"My stuff was as good as it ever has been," said Carpenter, who had won only once since beating the Pirates twice in a week's time in April. "Those guys are a good hitting team, but when you can execute a game plan and don't make a lot of mistakes, you can have some success."
Much like Rolen is having, going .481 (13-of-27) since Pujols went on the 15-day disabled list June 4 with a strained muscle in his right side. Rolen doubled and scored on Juan Encarnacion's single in the fourth, then doubled again an inning later to drive in the Cardinals' second run after So Taguchi drew a two-out walk from Oliver Perez.
"We are a good ballclub with him in the three-hole, but I think we're a good enough club to win the division," Rolen said of the absent Pujols. "We miss him, we miss his bat, but he's not there so I can't go out there and approach my at-bats any differently because I'm in 3-hole, rather than 4th or 5th."
Maybe facing the Pirates was all Carpenter (5-3) needed to again resemble the pitcher who went 21-5 and won the Cy Young Award last season.
The right-hander is 8-1 against the Pirates in his career and 3-0 this season, allowing the NL Central rivals only two runs in 21 innings. He has only two victories in his other nine starts, sitting out 2½ weeks with shoulder bursitis.
Carpenter's start was badly needed by a rotation that had allowed 37 runs in 41 innings in its previous eight games.
"Mechanically, I've been working hard to get myself back to where I was last year," Carpenter said. "I've been struggling a little bit with my mechanics, but I think they're coming back to where they need to be."
Carpenter couldn't have been much sharper in his second start since coming off the disabled list, surpassing his career high of 12 strikeouts -- done twice last season -- while not allowing a hit after Sean Casey's two-out double in the third.
Another sign of how well Carpenter pitched: He threw 71 of 111 pitches for strikes, striking out five of the final six he faced.
"That's why he's a Cy Young Award winner," Casey said. "He had every pitch working. His ball was heavy and down all night."
Jason Isringhausen allowed two hits and Craig Wilson's sacrifice fly in the ninth inning but he struck out Ronny Paulino with the potential tying run on third for his 21st save. It was the 161st save for Isringhausen with St. Louis, one more than Lee Smith's previous team record.
"I told him on the plane here that he'd get it Tuesday night, and I wanted to be part of it," Carpenter said.
After the game, Isringhausen playfully avoided teammates gathered at his locker to celebrate his record, sneaking in a back door before saying, "What are you guys looking for?"
"It was brilliant, he outsmarted the whole team," manager Tony La Russa said. "It was the best move I've seen in all my years of managing."
Paulino's strikeout was his fourth of the game and the 16th by the Pirates against four pitchers.
The Pirates, coming off three consecutive wins in San Francisco, had multiple runners against Carpenter only once. Freddy Sanchez and Wilson singled with one out in the second, but Carpenter struck out Paulino and got Perez to ground out.
Perez (2-8) pitched much better than he did while being roughed up for 14 runs and 14 hits in five innings over his last two starts, giving up two runs and seven hits over seven innings. The left-hander was coming off a 16-9 loss to Colorado in which he was pulled after giving up nine runs in two innings -- elevating his ERA to 7.18.
"I missed on a couple of pitches, but I threw all my pitches for strikes and threw good," Perez said.
The Cardinals were 3-4 in their first seven games without Pujols, but never seem to have any trouble beating the Pirates, especially in Pittsburgh. They are 6-1 against the Pirates this season and have won 30 of 40 since the 2004 season.
- St. Louis is 33-11 in Pittsburgh since PNC Park opened in 2001.
- Paulino struck out four times.
- A group of fans held up a large banner wishing Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger luck in his recovery from injuries sustained in Monday's motorcycle accident.
- Jason Bay's 10-game hitting streak ended for Pittsburgh.
- Casey is 12-for-19 in his last five games.