ST. LOUIS >> It is hardly the route that Lance Lynn sets out to take each game, nor is it what the Cardinals mean when they seek greater consistency from their third-year starter, yet there it was again Tuesday. The righty fell behind, slogged through the early innings, bought time for the offense to rally, and then, despite the detours, finished at a familiar destination.
Been there. Still won that.
For the second time in as many starts this season, both of them against Cincinnati, charmed starter Lynn allowed three runs in the first inning, and this time he never threw a pitch with the lead. But he’s got the win each time. The Cardinals rallied twice Tuesday, once from a four-run deficit, to take a 7-5 victory against the Reds at Busch Stadium. An offense that found numerous ways to score runs provided for a pitcher who, in his career, has benefited from numerous runs.
"It’s a beautiful thing," said Lynn (2-0). "A win is a win. That’s the best part about it, I guess."
The Cardinals’ first consecutive wins of this season assured them of a series victory against the Reds going into this afternoon’s finale. The Cardinals have won 11 of the past 12 series against Cincinnati at Busch III, and since 2003 the Cardinals, while at home, have taken 26 of 31 series from their National League Central Division rivals. Their ability to score when Lynn takes the mound has been just as reliable.
As they did for him last week in Cincinnati, the Cardinals erased an early deficit, and they did so by showing the renaissance offense they hope to have this season. In a blend of power and speed, the Cardinals overcame a 4-0 deficit and a 5-4 score before adding on late. Yadier Molina started their scoring with his third homer of the season, and from there it was depth on parade. No. 2 hitter Kolten Wong had a two-run triple to tie the score for his first big-league RBIs. Peter Bourjos, the eight-hole hitter, scored twice and had three hits, including a late RBI single for his first as a Cardinal. And No. 3 hitter Matt Holliday drove a two-run double off the right-field wall – a shot that echoed one from the 2011 World Series – to give the Cardinals a lead they wouldn’t lose.
The only starter in the order who didn’t reach base was Allen Craig, whose zero-for-five night deepened his slow start, and three different Cardinals scored twice.
"You saw it with Yadi leading off with a home run and then we put together pretty good at-bats and scored some runs a lot of different ways," said Bourjos, who has five hits in nine at-bats after arriving at Busch hitless in 13 at-bats to start the season. "You could see the innings that got started in all different ways – hits, walks, what have you. … There are so many different ways to score runs. If we’re putting pressure on the defense and the pitching, eventually you’re going to break through and get some runs."
It is what they usually do when Lynn gets the start.
Lynn has benefited throughout his career from generous teammates. In the past two seasons, the Cardinals have averaged more than five runs in his starts. In 32 of Lynn’s 66 big-league starts, the Cardinals have now scored six runs for him. As a team, they’ve only lost three of those 32. Though he fell behind 4-0 and then gave up a go-ahead run shortly after his teammates had tied it, Lynn lasted through six innings and the Cardinals did what they do – took the lead just after he departed the game.
"There’s no secret he gets good run production," manager Mike Matheny said. "He does grind. He keeps going and he doesn’t necessarily let them pile on too much more. I think it’s just our offense in general. Days like this help reinforce it. The guys keep plugging away."
In his past three starts against the Reds, Lynn has allowed 12 runs and 23 hits through 16 innings. They tagged him with two home runs last week at Great American Ball Park, and both of them came in the first inning. Lynn wanted to establish his fastball in that outing. He went to his offspeed pitches earlier Tuesday.
"And they seemed to be ready for that," he said.
Cleanup hitter Jay Bruce laced a breaking ball into the right-field for a two-run triple that gave the Reds a swift 2-0 lead on Lynn. Bruce then scored on a sacrifice fly for the 3-0 lead. In the fifth inning, No. 3 hitter Joey Votto and Bruce had back-to-back singles to lead to a rally that broke the 4-4 tie. At the core of Lynn’s recent troubles against Cincinnati has been that tandem, planted right in the middle of the Reds’ lineup.
Votto, a former MVP, is five for five off Lynn this season, and the Votto-Bruce combo is eight for 10 with a double, a triple, a homer and five runs scored.
"I have not had any luck with them," Lynn said. "I’ve got some stuff I need to work on. … They’re an aggressive team, early and often. That’s part of getting in the flow of the game. So far, I haven’t been able to get that rhythm that I would like."
Molina established one for the Cardinals leading off the second. It wasn’t until May 27 last year in his 181st at-bat of the season that Molina hit his third home run. He got his third this season in his 28th at-bat. Three of the next five Cardinals reached base and Wong then tied the score with a triple off Homer Bailey. The newly minted $100 million man after his extension this spring with the Reds, Bailey left the game after five innings, but he had the lead. That vanished in the sixth.
Bourjos opened with a double over first base and Matt Carpenter took first when he was hit by Logan Ondrusek’s pitch. Wong struck out, but Holliday followed with a shot to where champions are made. In an eerily similar fade, Bruce went back on Holliday’s liner only to leap and fail to catch it – just as Texas’ Nelson Cruz did with David Freese’s liner in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. Holliday’s shot scored two. He didn’t race for third as Freese did.
After the game, Wong spoke about Holliday "picking me up."
"That’s the beautiful thing about baseball," Wong said. "You always have teammates there to back you up."