PITTSBURGH (AP) — Lance Lynn grew up hitting from both sides of the plate, a notion the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher abandoned when he reached college at Ole Miss. Better to just hit right-handed and protect his right (throwing) elbow than expose it by trying to step in as a lefty.
Until now anyway.
Frustrated by a swing by his own admission he called “awful,” Lynn flipped to the left side in secret a few weeks ago, hiding his progress from manager Mike Matheny until he felt comfortable enough to broach the subject earlier this month. Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the fruits of his work were on full display. Lynn raked a run-scoring double to spark a two-out rally in the fifth as the Cardinals pulled away for a 4-0 victory.
Sure, Lynn (8-6) kept the Pirates off balance for 6 1/3 innings to win his second straight start. What he’ll remember is his first extra-base hit as a left-handed batter since high school. He stepped into the box in the fifth against Jameson Taillon with Luke Voit on first and two outs in a one-run game before sending a ball to the gap in left-center, with Voit coming around to score when Pittsburgh centerfielder Andrew McCutchen overran the ball.
“My best swing yet,” Lynn said with more than hint of a smile after boosting his batting average to .091.
Matt Carpenter sent Lynn chugging home with an RBI single and Tommy Pham drove in Carpenter with a double to left field as St. Louis ended Pittsburgh’s three-game winning streak.
“I know when pitchers get hits off me, it (ticks) me off,” Lynn said. “Today it kind of worked in our favor.”
Pham finished with three hits for his third straight multi-hit game. Carpenter went 2 for 4 with an RBI and Lynn did the rest. While he allowed eight hits, only one went for extra bases and he used his sinker to get the Pirates to hit into double plays in both the second and the fourth.
“He’s in a good place, he’s throwing the ball well,” Matheny said. “He’s got the movement he’s looking for.”
Taillon (5-3) lost for the first time in nearly a month. The Cardinals pecked away at Taillon for four runs in five innings. Taillon struck out five but tied a season high by allowing eight hits.
“The pitcher, if he just pops that one up or I make a better pitch . I’m moving on and I might go seven, give up one run and it might be a completely different game,” Taillon said.
Francisco Cervelli went 2 for 4 with a double for Pirates. Pittsburgh left nine runners on base and went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
“We’ve seen (Lynn), he’s seen us,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said “There’s no secrets. He got us tonight. We got him the last time. We’ll see what happens the next time.”
The Cardinals and Pirates are both trying to find something resembling traction in hopes of remaining within striking distance of Milwaukee in the middling NL Central. Pittsburgh began the second-half with a boost when rookie Josh Bell hit a walkoff three-run homer on Friday night.
The momentum came to a halt against Lynn. Though he retired the Pirates in order just once he kept Pittsburgh in check until the seventh, when he was pulled with one out after giving up consecutive hits to Cervelli and Jordy Mercer.
Reliever Matt Bowman walked Adam Frazier with two outs to load the bases but Pirates All-Star second baseman Josh Harrison – mired in a slump – flied out to left to end the threat. Harrison is hitting just .119 this month after going 0 for 4.
The Pirates plan to throw OF Starling Marte right back into the fire when he returns from his 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Marte is eligible to return on Tuesday against Milwaukee. He is currently in Triple-A Indianapolis and entered Saturday hitting .270 with one home run and three RBIs in 10 starts for Indianapolis and Class-A Bradenton.
“If he has a spark right away, maybe we can ride it,” Hurdle said. “If he’s challenged for a few games, we might need to back away. We’re going to assess as we go, day by day.”
Cardinals: Placed OF Stephen Piscotty on the 10-day DL with a strained right groin and called up OF Magneuris Sierra from Double-A Springfield. The 21-year-old Sierra hit .375 in eight games with the Cardinals earlier this season.
Cardinals: Carlos Martinez (6-8, 3.40 ERA), coming off two scoreless innings for the National League in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, makes his 19th start of the season in the series finale on Sunday.
Pirates: Trevor Williams (3-4, 4.80 ERA) will make his first career start against the Cardinals.