CHICAGO -- On a day when Adam Wainwright was as pinpoint with his pitches as he's been all season, the instability of the Cardinals' bullpen led to a lead unraveling again.
After breaking up Jonathan Lester's perfect game in the sixth and retiring 21 of the 24 batters he faced through the seventh, Wainwright took the mound in the eighth having just been spotted a two-run lead. But Wainwright wouldn't escape with a win. Instead, the Cubs, with a three-run inning, evened the series with a 3-2 victory Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.
"He had one of those special days," manager Mike Matheny said. "It was just a shame that we weren't able to finish it off."
Jonathan Jay gave the Cubs some life with a one-out single, and Benjamin Zobrist delivered a two-out double that pulled Chicago to within one. It also drew Matheny out of the dugout for a mound conference with his veteran right-hander.
Moments later, Matheny asked for the ball.
"It was just time," Matheny explained. "It was time to get him."
"He made the right call there," added Wainwright, whose pitch count sat at 107. "It was at a point where I don't like pulling myself out, but I told him exactly how I felt. I knew we had fresh guys down there. But in hindsight, maybe I wish I had fought for it."
Matt Bowman, who had not allowed his last 13 inherited runners to score, relieved Wainwright and allowed a game-tying, two-out single to Kristopher Bryant. Brett Cecil then surrendered a go-ahead RBI double to Anthony Rizzo.
It marked the fourth time in nine games that the Cardinals had lost a game on an eighth- or ninth-inning hit. In all four of those games, St. Louis' starter has allowed two or fewer runs.
Wainwright has actually done so in each of his last three appearances, as he continues to distance himself from that June rut that left his ERA to peak at 5.75.
"Some of my best execution," Wainwright said. "Everything was, for the most part, where I was trying to throw it. That's been key to the turn in my season so far. The last month or so, I've really wanted to execute, and today we executed pretty well."
While Lester limited the Cardinals to one hit over seven innings, Wainwright allowed only two. He retired 15 consecutive batters at one point and offered his infielders a heavy dose of groundballs. Shortstop Paul DeJong tied his career high with seven assists.
It was not only Wainwright's longest start of the season, but it was his first start of at least 7 2/3 innings without a walk since Sept. 12, 2014. His 25 called strikes were the most in a start this year.
"He just located well all day," Matheny said. "The fastball was really good. The curveball was very good. I thought the cutter was good. He had everything. When both pitchers are that good, they both deserve a win. But when we get a lead for him like that, we should put it away."
Added Wainwright: "It was a great recipe. It just didn't work out."