ST. LOUIS (AP) Jon Jay did not pick up a bat while missing five successive games with a sore wrist. Once he returned on Tuesday, the St. Louis outfielder quickly made up for lost time.
Jay hit an RBI single with two outs in the eighth inning to break a tie and lead the Cardinals to a 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox in a battle between the two World Series teams from last fall.
''It just felt great to be back out there,'' Jay said. ''Even better to come through.''
The Cardinals won their third in a row and fourth in the last five. Boston has lost three in a row.
All-Star reliever Pat Neshek (5-0) picked up the win by striking out the side in the eighth.
St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal recorded his NL-leading 35th save in 39 chances.
''Today was a big day for us,'' St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. ''There were great at-bats from everybody.''
''I didn't swing at all until today,'' Jay said. ''But it feels good.''
Pierzynski started the winning rally with a two-out hit. He was signed by the Cardinals on July 26 after being released by the Red Sox on July 16.
''Everyone wants me to say bad things about the Red Sox and I'm not going to do that,'' Pierzynski said. ''I'm not bitter about what happened. It just didn't work. I don't have one hard feeling. The only thing is I didn't play well enough. I have nothing but respect for the organization and how they handled everything. I was proud to say I was a Red Sox.''
Oscar Taveras followed Pierzynski's hit with a single to set the stage for Jay.
''They did a good job of putting the bat on the ball,'' Boston manager John Farrell said of the Cardinals. ''It seemed like Junichi had the eighth inning well in hand with two out, two strikes and nobody on. Three consecutive base hits and that was the difference.''
WHERE ARE THE CHAMPS?
Only 13 players remain from the Red Sox 25-man roster that won the World Series last fall. Through trades and attrition, the average age of the team dropped from 31 on Opening Day, to 28 on Tuesday.
The Red Sox have recalled knuckleball specialist Steven Wright from Triple-A Pawtucket. Wright will be making his first stint on the roster this season after four appearances last year.
WACHA ON WAY BACK
St. Louis RHP Michael Wacha began throwing on flat ground Tuesday in hopes of returning to the starting rotation in early September. He has not pitched since June 17 with a stress reaction in his right shoulder.
Red Sox: Newly acquired OF Allen Craig was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sore ankle. He suffered the injury Friday while running to first on a ground out. OF Corey Brown was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket and in uniform for Tuesday's game. He was hitting .226 with 16 homers and 39 RBI. Shane Victorino underwent successful lumbar discectomy surgery in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
St. Louis RHP Shelby Miller (8-8, 4.14) will face close friend Joe Kelly (2-2, 4.37) in the second game of the three-game series on Wednesday. Kelly, who spent two-plus seasons with the Cardinals, will be making his first start for the Red Sox since being acquired in a trade July 31. The two served as Best Man in each other's weddings in the off season.
''It's going to be strange,'' Kelly said. ''There will be some emotions there.''
The two sent good luck text messages to each other on Tuesday.