ST. LOUIS -- After hitting four home runs in his previous six games, it was somewhat of a surprise Tuesday night that Cubs home run leader Mike Olt wasn't in the starting lineup.
But manager Rick Renteria has been careful handling his young players while often employing a starting lineup featuring the most favorable matchups.
Renteria's method was validated somewhat when Luis Valbuena started at third base in place of Olt and continued his mastery of Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright with a two-run homer in the third inning.
Emilio Bonifacio provided a late spark when he singled with two out in the ninth to tie the game, and he sprinted to make a basket catch near the fence in right-center to rob Matt Carpenter of an extra-base hit to end the 11th.
But reliever Justin Grimm hit pinch-hitter Greg Garcia with a pitch with the bases loaded with one out in the 12th to score Jhonny Peralta for a 4-3 Cardinals' victory at soggy Busch Stadium in a game that lasted 4 hours, 39 minutes.
Cubs starter Jake Arrieta pitched only four innings for the second consecutive start, and the Cardinals took advantage of shortstop Starlin Castro's throwing error in the sixth to take a 3-2 lead.
Olt drew a walk as a pinch hitter but was thrown out on a steal attempt on the back end of a double play to end the eighth.
Before the game, Renteria seemed content not to rush Olt, who has 32 strikeouts in 91 at-bats.
"Once we all feel satisfied where he's at, then we'll make adjustments," Renteria said.
One area that still needs plenty of work is clutch hitting. The Cubs' 7-for-16 performance Monday raised their season average with runners in scoring position to .208, but they had difficulty Tuesday as Nate Schierholtz was stranded twice in scoring position.
The Cubs put the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the ninth with one out but left them stranded, and Castro grounded out with runners at first and second to end the 12th.
"Obviously we're pressing for runs," Schierholtz said before the game. "Our pitching has been great. We haven't been able to give them early leads. Everyone is trying to do too much to get the big hit when sometimes the opposite mentality is the best by just approaching it like any other at-bat and relaxing. You just have to remind yourself to slow down."
The Cardinals broke through in the sixth when Peter Bourjos had a bunt single off reliever Carlos Villanueva and advanced to third on a stolen base before Jon Jay walked to set up Castro's miscue on a force play at second. Peralta followed with a single off left-hander Wesley Wright to score the go-ahead run.
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