Game Report: Cardinals 2, Pirates 1

By Rob Rains

Lance Lynn came into his start for the Cardinals on Monday night knowing exactly what had been missing in his first two games this season.

Coming back after sitting out last season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, Lynn had gotten himself in trouble in the middle innings of those starts, both of which turned into losses for the Cardinals.

“The first couple of games I was good early on and got into the middle innings and wasn’t attacking and doing the things I do well as a starting pitcher,” Lynn said. “I just felt I wasn’t in my natural element of attacking hitters and that’s not me. I’m not going to pitch like that.”

Lynn did what he wanted to do in this game, and the result was his first victory of the season.

Lynn out-dueled Ivan Nova, who pitched a complete eight-inning game in just 78 pitches but lost because of a home run by Kolten Wong in the third inning and an RBI single by Jose Martinez in the seventh.

Lynn worked seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out five. He also hit two batters, both of them Josh Harrison, who also was hit by a pitch twice on Sunday in Chicago.

The win stopped a three-game losing streak for the Cardinals, who had won only three of their first 12 games. Reversing those results also was on Lynn’s mind.

“We lost the first two games I started this year and I really hate losing, especially when I don’t do my job,” Lynn said. “It was time for me to get going and get back to doing what I’m capable of doing.

“You want to be known as the stopper. When you go through a rotation and see we’re not pitching the way we’re capable of or played the way we’re capable of you want to be the guy that kind of gets us going and stops it. Hopefully that will bleed into the next start.”

Here is how the game broke down:

At the plate: Wong’s homer was his first of the season and the seventh of his career in 48 games against the Pirates, the most he has hit against any opponent. Wong came into the game hitting just .148 and hitless in his last 10 at-bats … The Cardinals only other hit, and only baserunner, through the sixth inning was Randal Grichuk with a leadoff single in the second … The extra run came after Stephen Piscotty led off the seventh with a single, but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Grichuk then singled, stole second, went to third on a throwing error and scored on Martinez’s single …. Dexter Fowler was 0-for-4, dropping his average to .132.

On the mound: After Lynn left, Trevor Rosenthal worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Seung Hwan Oh survived the ninth, getting the Cardinals’ first save of the season. He gave up two hits, including an RBI single by Gregory Polanco, before finishing off the victory. Oh has allowed at least one run in four of his five appearances.

Key stat:
The win was the first of the season by the Cardinals when they scored less than four runs. They had been 0-7 in those games.

Worth noting: Both John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny took turns before the game to address the Cardinals’ poor start to the season. “It’s not as simple as pushing one button to fix it or one simple thing to get it right,” Mozeliak said. “I think this team still has better days ahead of it but it clearly has to get out of this current lane we’re in” … Said Matheny, “We know the talent we have. We know what it should look like when we get it going the right direction. Right now we’re not there. We just know this isn’t the team we should be” … Matt Carpenter was a late scratch from the game because of a swollen finger. He was hurt fielding a ground ball on Sunday night … Tyler Lyons made his third rehab start at Memphis on Monday, throwing 73 pitches in 4 2/3 innings. He allowed two runs and six hits and likely will make one more start before the Cardinals have to make a decision about adding him to the roster.

Looking ahead: The Cardinals will send Mike Leake to the mound on Tuesday night against the Pirates’ Chad Kuhl. The Cardinals will be trying to win consecutive games fot the first time this season. Leake has allowed just one run in 15 innings in his first two starts and leads the NL with a 0.60 ERA.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains