PITTSBURGH -- Right-handed on the mound and left-handed at the plate, Lance Lynn led the Cardinals to a 4-0 win over the Pirates on Saturday night at PNC Park. Lynn fired 6 1/3 scoreless innings for the Cards and laced a double to left-center that began their three-run, two-out rally in the fifth inning.
"I thought [Lynn] was great," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He was using a great mix of the sinker and the four-seamer."
Lynn switched to batting from the left side earlier this month, citing a better launch angle than he has as a right-handed hitter. He helped secure the Cardinals' four-run lead in the fifth. With one on and two outs, Lynn sliced a line drive into the gap off Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon. Lynn didn't get credit for an RBI, as center fielder Andrew McCutchen booted the ball and allowed Luke Voit to score, but he deserves credit for keeping the inning alive. Matt Carpenter promptly drove in Lynn with a single up the middle, and Tommy Pham doubled home Carpenter.
"That's a big inning there," Matheny said. "Two outs for Lance, then Carpenter and Tommy all come through, all with two outs in that particular situation. No question the best swing we have ever seen from [Lynn]. So I guess he is on to something with his launch angle."
The Cardinals pulled within two games of .500 and 6 1/2 games of the division-leading Brewers. The Pirates fell back to five games under .500 and now trail Milwaukee by eight games.
Taillon entered the night with a 15 1/3-inning scoreless streak and a 2.73 ERA, the sixth-lowest in the National League this season among pitchers who have thrown at least 60 innings. But he surrendered four runs, three of them with two outs in the fifth, on eight hits over five innings in his first start of the second half.
"Definitely not my best one," Taillon said. "We always want to go deep into games. Going five, it sounds gross. Any time a starting pitcher goes five, it leaves a really sour taste in our mouths."
The last time Lynn faced the Pirates, he allowed seven runs and couldn't escape the sixth inning. But this was more reminiscent of his first start against Pittsburgh this year, when he held the Bucs scoreless for seven innings in St. Louis. Lynn surrendered eight hits without a walk and struck out three, and reliever Matt Bowman cleaned up a mess in the seventh inning to keep the Pirates off the board.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Pham-tastic: Pham continued to make the most of his playing time, going 3-for-4 with an RBI double in the fifth inning. Pham punctuated the Cards' three-run fifth with a line-drive double to left -- a ball that left his bat at 110.5 mph, according to Statcast™. Pham is now hitting .311 with a .917 OPS this season and figures to receive more consistent starts in the outfield with Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk sidelined by injuries.
"He's dangerous to all fields," Matheny said. "He's just an exciting player to watch right now." More >
No trouble: The Pirates mounted their first real threat in the seventh inning, when Francisco Cervelli doubled and Jordy Mercer singled with one out. That put runners on the corners and ended Lynn's night. In came Bowman, the right-hander, who got lefty pinch-hitter John Jaso to fly out to left field. Bowman walked Adam Frazier, bringing the potential tying run to the plate. But Josh Harrison popped out to shallow left field, leaving the bases loaded.
"That's almost a sign of his maturity, I believe," Matheny said of Bowman. "... I think he has a pretty good idea of what he is trying to do in certain situations against certain hitters. But he is a guy who continues to show us how important he is to our bullpen."
"So often our pitchers are telling us what incredible athletes they are and how good of hitters they are. So when Lance came in with some great self-awareness and said that his right-handed swing was awful, it was easy to agree with him and let him roll from there." -- Matheny, on Lynn switching over to the left side of the plate
"It's tough. I'm going to have a tough time getting over that one tonight, but I'll get here tomorrow and it'll be all right. The pitcher, if he just pops that ball up or I make a better pitch, we're moving on, and I might go seven tonight and I might give up one run. It might be a completely different game. He had a good pitch to hit, and he didn't miss it." --Taillon, on his frustration following Lynn's two-out double
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Pirates' first ball in play was followed by an instant replay review. Frazier reached on what was initially ruled an infield single, a ground ball to third baseman Jedd Gyorko. But the Cardinals challenged the call, which was overturned as a replay official determined that Gyorko's throw settled in first baseman Voit's glove before Frazier's foot touched the bag. Frazier was ruled out, and the Cards kept their challenge.
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals:Carlos Martinez will start for the Cardinals in the series finale against the Pirates on Sunday at 12:35 p.m. CT at PNC Park. In his last start before the break, Martinez gave up five runs on seven hits in five innings against the Mets. He has lost his past three decisions, posting a 5.73 ERA over his past four starts.
Pirates: Right-hander Trevor Williams will make his first career start against the Cardinals as the NL Central rivals finish a three-game series Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET at PNC Park. Before a 3 2/3-inning, three-run outing at Wrigley Field last weekend, Williams strung together three quality starts.