ST. LOUIS -- Home from an exasperating road trip, the Cardinals played one of their crispest games of the season to halt Pittsburgh's three-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory at Busch Stadium on Monday night.
"It's the biggest win possible in April that you can have," Cardinals starter Lance Lynn said wryly, after earning his first victory since 2015. "We're happy to be home. We have a three-game series here against a division rival. We got off to a good start, and hopefully we can keep rolling and start doing some things we're capable of and enjoy the season."
Lynn gave the Cardinals seven brilliant innings to outduel Ivan Nova, whose remarkable efficiency was spoiled only by a few mistakes. Nova pitched an eight-inning complete game on 78 pitches, the most costly of which ended up leaving the park with Kolten Wong's third-inning swing. He became the first Pirates pitcher to pitch a complete game and lose since May 22 and July 10, 2009, when it happened to Zach Duke, who is now with the Cardinals.
"It's a Major League team. They're Major League hitters," Nova said. "You've just got to stay focused and make pitches. Don't try to think too much. Just attack the hitter."
The solo shot by Wong offered Lynn all the support he'd need on a night when he scattered three hits while striking out five. Trevor Rosenthal followed him with a 1-2-3 eighth, and Seung Hwan Oh, who allowed an RBI double to pinch-hitter Gregory Polanco, held on to collect the team's first save of the season and secure the Cardinals' fourth win.
"This was definitely a huge game for our confidence," Wong said. "We came in, played a clean game behind Lance. Lance pitched his butt off. And we were able to scratch some runs across. … We know we're a good team. We know we can play with the best of them. It's just about allowing it to come and happen."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Wong gone: Wong snapped an 0-for-10 skid with his first home run of the season, a solo shot to left on a first-pitch fastball from Nova. According to Statcast™, the blast, which traveled 398 feet, came off Wong's bat with an exit velocity of 105.2 mph. It was the third-hardest-hit ball for Wong this season.
"I made a mistake," Nova said. "I wanted to go outside, and the ball just sank inside, right into his path, and he took advantage of it."
Putting on pressure: After Stephen Piscotty's aggressive baserunning ran the Cardinals into their first out in the seventh, Randal Grichuk made his own push on the basepaths, and it helped set up the Cardinals' insurance run. Grichuk singled, swiped second and took third when Francisco Cervelli's throw went into the outfield. It was the 15th stolen base allowed by the Pirates in 16 attempts this season. Jose Martinez, a late addition to the lineup, drove him in with a single.
"It's exciting to be able to contribute on defense and on the bases," Grichuk said. "I'm not just a one-sided player. Obviously stuff like that [puts] pressure on them, and it created a problem. I was able to get to third."
"People expect us to be successful, and we haven't done that to date. You start looking around and want to point fingers and point blame, and I think the easiest way to look at this is, with the exception of one or two players, it just hasn't gotten like anybody had hoped. I think we would all agree when you look at this roster, you believe that the talent is there. You believe it will come around." -- Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, on the team's 4-9 start
"You talk about the game being contagious. I've never seen anything like that. I don't know if we need to figure that one out." -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on Josh Harrison, whose streak of hit-by-pitches reached four straight plate appearances
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• The 2-hour, 14-minute game tied the Brewers and Blue Jays (April 12) for the quickest in the Majors this season. The last time the Cardinals played a game that fast was on Oct. 4, 2015.
• Before Harrison, only two players over the last 80 seasons had consecutive games in which they were hit by at least two pitches: Jon Jay with the Cardinals on Aug. 15-16, 2014, and Craig Biggio with the Astros on May 7-8, 2000.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Coming off a strong start at Fenway Park on Thursday, right-hander Chad Kuhl will take the mound for the Pirates on Tuesday night (8:15 ET) against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Kuhl held Boston's dangerous lineup to one run on five hits and struck out six over 6 1/3 innings.
Cardinals:Mike Leake will start in the middle game of this three-game series. He has allowed one run over 15 innings this season and will bring a scoreless-inning streaks of nine into the game. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. CT.