CHICAGO -- Cubs pinch-hitter Bryan LaHair gave Jason Motte all the Cardinals' closer could handle in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday night. And although it wasn't LaHair who handed Motte and the Cardinals the final blow, his 12-pitch walk set the tone.
Joe Mather, who spent nine years with the Cardinals, hit a two-run, walk-off single three batters later to hand Motte and the Cardinals a 3-2 loss at Wrigley Field.
After getting Mather in the hole, 0-2, Motte threw back-to-back balls before Cubs third baseman singled up the middle.
"I tried to come back with another cutter and just left it pretty much right over the plate, and he managed to get a good piece of it," Motte said. "In a one-run ballgame you make one mistake, and that's what happens."
Mather said he knew he had a chance after seeing LaHair work against Motte three batters earlier.
"Closers usually don't throw that many pitches. They're usually so electric, it's hard to stay in the at-bat," said Mather. "Bryan fouled off [six pitches]. That's way more work than he's used to doing. If Bryan doesn't have that at-bat and same with [catcher Geovany Soto], we don't get to that point."
Motte wound up throwing 31 pitches in the frame -- 12 of which went to LaHair, who fouled off six in a row.
"I was just trying to get on base and trying to have a good at-bat," LaHair said. "It's the type of at-bat, he's throwing 98, 99 mph. I was up there battling."
Motte was doing the same.
"I made some really good pitches, and he just did a good job of fouling them off and keeping himself in the at-bat," Motte said, "trying to get a pitch or get a ball too far out of the zone that he could take for ball four. He just had a good at-bat out there."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny went to the mound after LaHair's walk to remind his closer to slow down.
"'Stop and breathe a little bit,' that was the message more than anything else," Matheny said. "I felt real good about him getting out of that, and he's going to get us out of that almost all the time."
Monday night wasn't one of those instances. Motte followed LaHair's free pass with a four-pitch walk to Soto before pinch-hitter Steve Clevenger's groundout put runners at second and third for Mather's heroics.
"I have a lot of good friends over there," Mather said of the Cardinals. "When it comes down to it, we won a big league game, and the self satisfaction is secondary. The win is first, but it felt good to do it against those guys."
The Cubs' ninth-inning comeback spoiled an impressive outing by left-hander Jaime Garcia, who held them to one run on six hits in 7 2/3 innings.
Garcia's lone blemish came in the opening inning, when two infield hits and a wild pitch put runners on the corners with one out before Alfonso Soriano hit a sacrifice fly to score Darwin Barney.
Whenever Garcia managed to get into any hint of trouble, the left-hander got himself out. The Cubs' leadoff hitter reached in the fifth and sixth innings, but Garcia induced double plays in both situations.
"He did a great job," Matheny said. "He really was never up against the ropes, in my opinion."
The Cubs threatened to tie in the bottom of the eighth, when pinch-hitter Tony Campana hit a one-out single to right, then stole two bases, but Starlin Castro grounded out to short to end the inning.
Although he wasn't as efficient as Garcia, Cubs right-hander Matt Garza -- who allowed only four hits in seven innings while throwing 108 pitches -- kept St. Louis off the board in every inning but the fourth.
Cardinals outfielders Skip Schumaker and Matt Holliday -- who went 2-for-3 with a walk -- singled and doubled, respectively, to lead off the fourth, before Carlos Beltran's groundout to second scored Schumaker. Molina followed two batters later with a sacrifice fly to center to score Holliday.
"Just couldn't stack a lot against Garza," Matheny said. "We knew he was a good pitcher, knew we had our hands full going into this thing and we thought we had enough room right there."