CHICAGO -- The last person the Cubs and Jake Arrieta wanted to see in a Cardinals uniform was A.J. Pierzynski.
Matt Adams drove in four runs and Pierzynski celebrated his St. Louis debut with three hits, including an RBI single, to lead the Cardinals to a 6-3 victory over the Cubs on Saturday to even the series.
The game was played in front of 41,927, the largest crowd of the season at Wrigley Field, but there seemed to be more red Yadier Molina shirts than Starlin Castro jerseys in the stands.
Those in Cubs blue didn't exactly welcome Pierzynski. Released by the Red Sox on July 16, he signed with the Cardinals late Friday, and was greeted by boos from Cubs fans who remember the catcher from his days with the White Sox.
"I've faced him several times in the past, and he's had quite a bit of success against me," Arrieta said of Pierzynski, who is now 6-for-8 against him. "He's a veteran hitter and knows what he's doing up there. ... He'll be big for the team, especially with Yadi gone. It's a good pickup on their part because he's been around for a long time."
Arrieta did get Pierzynski to ground out in his first at-bat in a rocky first inning. He walked Matt Carpenter and served up a single to Kolten Wong to start the game, and one out later, both scored on Adams' double down the right-field line. Arrieta went to three-ball counts on three of the first four batters he faced, and needed 24 pitches to get through the inning.
"I came out kind of flat in the first and really struggled with command with just about everything today," Arrieta said. "I really didn't have a pitch I could go to necessarily in some spots and induce contact and kind of make things a little less difficult on myself. My pitch count got up. It was pretty much a battle from start to finish. I had to make some pitches; they scattered some singles."
The Cubs now have given up multiple first-inning runs (nine total) in four straight games.
What was encouraging to manager Rick Renteria is that Arrieta settled down and gave the Cubs a quality start, his ninth straight.
"That performance is indicative of how much he's grown," Renteria said. "If that had been a couple years ago, and he was struggling, he wouldn't be able to grind through and pitch six innings without his best command or stuff. Today he did."
"He's had a nice season," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Arrieta. "We did get a couple off him early, which was helpful. He's got good stuff, no question."
The Cubs tallied in the fourth on Anthony Rizzo's run-scoring groundout and tied the game in the sixth on pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz's sixth home run of the season off a 1-0 pitch from Shelby Miller.
But the Cardinals answered in the seventh. Jon Jay singled to lead off against James Russell and moved up on pinch-hitter Mark Ellis' sacrifice. Jay then stole third, although the Cubs challenged the call, saying he'd come off the bag. After a 1-minute, 59-second review, the call stood, and Jay was safe.
Carpenter then hit a grounder to Rizzo, who threw home, and Jay avoided catcher Welington Castillo's tag to score. One out later, Matt Holliday walked, and he and Carpenter then scored on Adams' triple into the gap in right-center.
"Today, he had a hiccup," Renteria said of Russell. "You trust him when he goes out there. He knows how to grind out a batter, whether it's a lefty or righty. He had a chance to go ahead and do his thing, and it just didn't work out today."
Russell isn't alone. The Cubs' bullpen has given up 11 earned runs over 14 innings combined in the last four games.
Adams notched his 13th multi-RBI game of the season, and he leads the National League in batting average against right-handed pitchers.
"He's hitting just about any pitch in multiple parts of the strike zone, and that creates a tough out for anybody," Arrieta said of Adams. "He's doing some good things for that lineup. We're just going to have to do a better job making pitches to him."
The Cubs pulled within 6-3 on Ryan Sweeney's leadoff home run in the eighth off Pat Neshek, only the second off the All-Star right-hander this season. But that was it as Chicago dropped to 4-14 since the July 4 trade with the Athletics, while the Cardinals kept pace in the National League Central. St. Louis began the day tied with Pittsburgh for second in the division.
"[We kept] the team in the game, we were able to tie it," Arrieta said. "They were able to scratch for a few and open it up a little bit. We fought back and we made it a pretty close game at the end. We just came out on the other side tonight."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.