ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny rolled the dice, but he came up empty as the team fell, 6-3, to the Cubs in the series opener on Friday night at Busch Stadium.
In a decision that left plenty of room for second guessing, Matheny pulled back would-be pinch hitter Pete Kozma with the potential game-winning run at second with two outs in the bottom of the 10th. Instead of Kozma, Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal -- with one career at-bat to his credit -- stepped to the plate.
Rosenthal struck out and then gave up a three-run homer to Welington Castillo in his second inning of work, spoiling the Cardinals' ninth-inning comeback that had forced extras. The 426-foot blast into the left-center bleachers stood as the difference.
"I think I thought I could elevate with him there," Rosenthal said. "I figured he might be hunting a fastball, and looking at the video, I didn't get it quite up as much as I hoped. But he put a good swing on it, on a good pitch. There's not much you can do about it."
The outcome left Matheny explaining his decision.
"Trevor had a very efficient inning, throwing six pitches the previous inning," Matheny said. "He's arguably our best guy in the 'pen. We had an opportunity to get him back out there and start off the next inning with Bourjos, Descalso and then the top of the order, we like throwing our best guy out there and thinking it's going to get us a zero to get us a chance to get back in.
"Once again, if we would've been in a situation where we had bases loaded and one out, you would have seen Kozma walk up to the plate and at that point you would've seen Randy Choate come into the game as the pitcher. But it didn't work out that way. We had two shots of getting the guy in from second base and it didn't happen so we had to do something to salvage that inning and hopefully get back in and get another shot at it."
Cubs manager Rick Renteria understood Matheny's decision.
"He wanted to keep him in there to keep us at bay," Renteria said. "He had two guys left and he wanted him to go back out and that's what you have to do."
Previously, Joe Kelly did his best to make sure Jeff Samardzija's lack of run support continued.
Kelly, the Cardinals' fifth starter, dueled the Cubs ace before an announced crowd of 43,903.
Samardzija entered the contest with a dazzling 1.29 ERA, but had an 0-2 record as the Cubs were shut out in both starts.
Kelly did his part to make sure the misery prolonged, mastering the Cubs' lineup through six-plus strong innings, only surrendering an unearned run in the seventh and departing with the game tied.
"I had my two pitches working for me -- fastball, curveball," Kelly said. "I kind of got a feel for my change there at the end and didn't have any walks, so that's always a plus."
Matt Adams got the Cardinals started with his team-high fifth double of the season to lead off the second. Adams moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when a line drive off of Yadier Molina's bat popped out of the glove of the diving Nate Schierholtz in right field.
Kelly's troubles began when Kolten Wong couldn't handle an Anthony Rizzo grounder to lead off the seventh. Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney followed with singles to tie the game at 1-1.
The Cubs took the lead on Rizzo's sacrifice fly to right in the eighth, scoring Justin Ruggiano. They tacked on another with a Schierholtz RBI single.
The Cubs' comeback spoiled a strong effort by Kelly, who faced the minimum through five efficient innings. He needed just 37 pitches to get the first nine outs and needed just 10 pitches to dispose of the Cubs in the fourth and fifth innings.
The only two Cubs to reach during that span were Sweeney and Schierholtz. Both were erased with a 4-6-3 double play.
Kelly pitched out of a jam in the sixth after Castillo and Emilio Bonifacio singled, coaxing Luis Valbuena to ground to second to end the threat.
Samardzija was strong in his own right, holding the Cardinals to the one run on six hits through seven innings.
But Jose Veras couldn't shut the door in the ninth, allowing a single to Molina and hitting Allen Craig and Peter Bourjos to load the bases. A passed ball scored Molina and Matt Carpenter tied the game with a sacrifice fly scoring Shane Robinson, who pinch-ran for Craig.
"They're all disappointing, but when a team comes back like they did you hope you can put something away there," Matheny said. "They showed a lot of fight to get us back into that game. It's just a shame we couldn't finish."
Hector Rondon earned his first save of the season, slamming the door in the 11th. Rondon now has a 16-inning scoreless streak dating back to September 3 of last season.
Joe Harris is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.