ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he saw his starter laboring. Adam Wainwright held the Rangers scoreless for six innings, retired the first two batters he faced in the seventh and appeared en route to becoming the National League's first 11-game winner.
But he had just surrendered his first extra-base hit of the night, a line-drive double to right field by David Murphy and then let Leonys Martin tie the game with an RBI single. Wainwright, ready to face pinch-hitter Jurickson Profar in pursuit of the third out, noticed catcher Yadier Molina was holding another baseball. Wainwright, a ball already in hand, looked around and saw David Freese exiting the game for Daniel Descalso as part of a double-switch.
Wainwright's night was over after 6 2/3 innings as the Cardinals fell to the Rangers for a third straight time in Sunday night's eventual 2-1 loss, delayed nearly three hours due to rain.
"That was two pretty stressful innings in a row and Martin put together a good at-bat," Matheny said. "It's a tricky call."
But the exit didn't sit well with the Cardinals' ace.
"No, he's wrong," Wainwright said. "You don't want to call your manager out and I would never do that, but laboring is not what I was doing. … If you think I'm laboring because I go into deep counts, I went into deep counts all day and made good pitches. That's his opinion."
Wainwright said he felt as strong or stronger when he left the game as he did when he entered it. But the double-switch had already been made before he had a chance to lobby or discuss it with Matheny.
"Even if I did, I would never tell you all [reporters] that," Wainwright said. "That's something that stays in here."
Immediately after Wainwright's exit, Profar reached on a fielding error by Pete Kozma, his fourth of the year, and Ian Kinsler batted in the go-ahead unearned run before Rosenthal could strike out Elvis Andrus for the final out.
Early on, the game was shaping up to be a pitchers' duel between Wainwright and Rangers starter Nick Tepesch, as neither team had more than one batter reach base in an inning until the fifth, when the Cardinals managed two hits but stranded their runners.
"I like to work quick, and their guy was doing a great job, too," Wainwright said. "I mean, we're attacking hitters. He's got some great stuff working down the zone, working that slider real good. It was a good match. I was enjoying it. We were matching zeros for a while there."
Wainwright finished with two runs (one earned), six hits and six strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. He walked one batter, bringing his season total to 10, still the best among NL starters. Tepesch allowed four hits, one home run, while walking two and striking out four.
"He's Adam Wainwright for a reason," Murphy said. "He knows how to pitch, he's a big-time competitor and he has great stuff. Most of the guys in our lineup have never seen him. He's a bulldog, we just fought hard and got some big hits. Fortunately Tepesch did a great job, so we only had to score a few runs."
Matt Carpenter broke the stalemate by knocking a shot into the Cardinals' bullpen for the go-ahead score in the sixth. After the leadoff homer, Tepesch struck out Carlos Beltran, but walked Matt Holliday on a 12-pitch at-bat. Allen Craig singled to push Holliday into scoring position, but neither Molina nor Freese could capitalize to extend the lead, a missed opportunity the Rangers immediately pounced on with the two-run seventh.
With the loss, the Cardinals tied their longest losing streak of the season -- they lost three in a row in April -- and fell victim to their first sweep of the year in just their fourth series loss.
The Rangers' margin of victory was never greater than two runs, and St. Louis appeared on the verge of a comeback in all three contests.
"Sooner or later, this moment was going to happen," Carlos Beltran said. "We were playing a good team, they have a good ball club. We just need to continue to find a way to get back."
One day after a one-hour, six-minute rain delay, the Cardinals and Rangers weathered an even longer storm Sunday that postponed first pitch by two hours and 59 minutes and had the game extending just beyond 1 a.m. CT.
"It feels like we're the Seattle Cardinals instead of the St. Louis Cardinals," Wainwright said. "This is the rainiest first half of the season I've ever been a part of, no doubt. But you know, we're professionals, we've got to find a way to get the job done no matter what."
The near-three-hour rain delay brought the Cardinals' season total up to 15 hours, 22 minutes over eight games -- not including the game against San Francisco on May 31 that was canceled and rescheduled as part of a split doubleheader the next day.
"You've got to go out and find a way to play because you know, the other team is also going through what you're going through," Beltran said. "You can't take that as an excuse."
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.