ST. LOUIS -- Ian Snell drew inspiration from watching a pitcher from another team.
Snell outpitched Braden Looper with seven scoreless innings and Ryan Doumit had three of the Pirates' five hits. Doumit's RBI double in the first in one run before a three-run ninth ensured success in what manager John Russell said was "by far" the best start of the year for his struggling right-hander.
"He was making good hitters not real comfortable, and that's a great sign," Russell said. "He's been building toward this and hopefully he can maintain some of it."
Snell was glued to Sabathia's fifth complete game in nine starts since moving to the National League, even watching the game on his cell phone when he was in a taxi. The biggest pointer: work off the fastball.
"Watching CC made me realize a whole bunch of things," Snell said. "I just brought a game plan into the game."
St. Louis, which made two ninth-inning errors that led to two unearned runs, has lost eight of 11 at home and is 33-29 this season at Busch Stadium while going a NL-best 37-29 on the road.
Snell (5-10) won for only the second time in 11 starts since June 17, allowing three hits while striking out eight and walking one. He allowed just two runners to reach scoring position against a team that scored 19 earned runs in 19 innings against him in four previous starts this year.
Snell said his back was bothering him when he allowed six runs in four innings at St. Louis on June 1.
"It was good to have my velocity back," Snell said. "I challenged all of their hitters, no matter who it was. I think I threw more fastballs than I had thrown all year."
Center fielder Nyjer Morgan, recalled earlier in the day when Doug Mientkiewicz went on the bereavement list, made a nice running catch on Albert Pujols' drive to the warning track to end the eighth and preserve a one-run lead. T.J. Beam allowed pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy's RBI single before striking out Brian Barton with the bases loaded for his first career save,
Beam became the seventh Pirate to get a save, the most since eight Pittsburgh pitchers had at least one in 1996.
"Every time we play these guys it's never an easy win," Russell said. "They don't lay down and that ninth inning has always been an adventure.
"We've made it an adventure for them, too."
In the ninth, catcher Yadier Molina dropped a forceout relay, and center fielder Skip Schumaker's throwing error on a sacrifice fly allowed another run to score. St. Louis has 11 errors in the last eight games.
"That was really freaky, strange stuff," manager Tony La Russa said.
Kyle McClellan walked Steve Pearce with the bases loaded for a third run, one at-bat after Molina made an ill-advised and late throw to third on Jason Michaels' sacrifice bunt.
Looper (11-10) allowed one run and three hits in seven innings. He has a 2.03 ERA in his last six starts, going 2-3 in that stretch while losing 3-0 and 2-1 games.
"I was able to make the pitches that I had to make to limit the damage," Looper said. "I made one bad pitch, and it cost us the game."
The paid attendance of 39,502 was the Cardinals' first below 40,000 in 39 dates since May 14 -- when they played the Pirates.
The Pirates expect Mientkiewicz to rejoin the team on Friday. ... Rick Ankiel started for the seventh time in LF while still hampered somewhat by an abdominal strain that limited him to pinch-hitting duty for 14 games, but La Russa said he'd move back to CF whenever he's ready. ... The Pirates were saddened by the death Tuesday of 18-year-old John Challis, who gave players a motivational speech in June while suffering from terminal cancer. Challis also delivered talks to the Penguins as well as visiting teams before Pirates games. "He was, and will continue to be, an inspiration to each of us," team president Frank Coonelly said in a statement. "John had every reason to complain about his situation, but he chose not to." ... St. Louis' Aaron Miles, who popped out to short with a runner on second to end the seventh as a pinch-hitter, is 2-for-22 in that role.