CHICAGO (AP) Trevor Rosenthal was in deep trouble when Yadier Molina came up with a huge play - for the closer and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Molina cut down rookie Albert Almora Jr. trying to take third on a ball in the dirt in the ninth, and Rosenthal held on for the save as St. Louis stopped a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.
Almora doubled with one out and Rosenthal hit pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan with his next pitch. With Ben Zobrist at the plate, Almora tried to advance when a ball bounced away from Molina, but the eight-time Gold Glove winner made a perfect throw to third baseman Jhonny Peralta for the out.
''He's the best catcher in baseball,'' said Jaime Garcia, who pitched into the seventh inning in his first win in four June starts.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said it looked as if the ball hit the foot of home plate umpire Pat Hoberg before Molina got to it.
''Their catcher, Molina, made a good play and they made a good tag,'' Maddon said.
Zobrist followed with a single to right, putting runners on the corners, but Rosenthal got Jason Heyward to pop out for his 13th save in 15 chances. Rosenthal allowed five runs and seven hits in two-plus innings over his previous four appearances.
''He was flirting with danger again,'' manager Mike Matheny said. ''Got to get him right, and right there it's not as much getting him right as much as it felt like he was our best shot.''
Brandon Moss and Peralta homered against John Lackey as the Cardinals got back on track following their first winless homestand of at least two series since 1983. It was their first trip to Wrigley Field since they were eliminated by the Cubs in the NL Division Series last year.
''We lost some one-run games there at home quite a few times on the homestand,'' Moss said. ''It's good to move past them and win a game like that against a really good team.''
Lackey settled down after a slow start, but Garcia (5-6) and two relievers held the major league-leading Cubs in check. Lackey (7-3) allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings in his first loss in three appearances this year against his former team.
''Early on I definitely wasn't locating quite as well as I could,'' Lackey said. ''We made some adjustments in between innings that paid off in the end.''
Both benches were warned by Hoberg after Moss and Chicago star Kris Bryant were each hit by a pitch in the fifth. But the longtime rivals played the rest of the game without incident.
Chicago was coming off a three-game sweep of Pittsburgh and had won 18 of 24 overall. Its NL Central lead over second-place St. Louis was trimmed to 11 1/2 games, still the biggest advantage in baseball.
Moss went deep in the second and Peralta added a leadoff drive in the third. Aledmys Diaz also had a two-out RBI single for the Cardinals.
Lackey allowed a total of three runs in his previous four starts combined.
The Cubs got two back in the third when Bryant hit an RBI double and scored on Willson Contreras' two-out single in his first major league start. The touted catcher was promoted from Triple-A Iowa on Friday and hit a two-run homer on the first pitch of his first at-bat in Sunday night's 10-5 victory over the Pirates.
With Contreras on first, Garcia got Javier Baez to fly out to right to end the inning. The left-hander allowed six hits in 6 2/3 innings in just his second win in his past seven starts.
The Cubs placed center fielder Dexter Fowler on the 15-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain and recalled right-hander Carl Edward Jr. from Triple-A Iowa.
Cardinals: C Brayan Pena, who is coming back from left knee surgery, remains on a rehab stint in the minors, and Matheny offered no update on a possible return date when asked about the switch hitter before the game. ... Reliever Mitch Harris said in a post on his Instagram account that he had right elbow surgery last week. Matheny said he doubted Harris would be ready for the start of next season. ''I haven't put a timetable, but it's usually around a year,'' he said.
Cubs: OF Jorge Soler (left hamstring strain) and INF Tommy La Stella (right hamstring strain) are running again. General manager Jed Hoyer said La Stella is closer to a rehab assignment than Soler.
Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright (5-4, 4.78 ERA) and Cubs RHP Jason Hammel (7-2, 2.26 ERA) face off on Tuesday night. Wainwright is 9-1 with a 3.33 ERA in 20 career games at Wrigley. Hammel pitched seven solid innings in a no-decision at Washington on Wednesday in his previous start.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap