Tyler Lyons couldn’t seem to find any pitch that was working in the first inning Tuesday night.
The next six? Just about everything was working.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ rookie only allowed two hits against the Kansas City Royals’ scuffling offense, and the only run in the first inning.
The result was a 4-1 win that kept Lyons perfect in his week-old big league career, and the Cardinals rolling as they head for home.
”In the first inning, I was a little erratic with everything,” Lyons said. ”Just trying to control that a little bit and get in the groove and figure out what was working and what wasn’t.
"Eventually, everything started working.”
By that point, Carlos Beltran had already belted a two-run homer to give Lyons the lead. Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday added solo shots in the sixth inning, and the Cardinals improved to a major league-best 20-9 on the road before heading home for two against KC at Busch Stadium.
The only two hits that Lyons (2-0) allowed were to Billy Butler — an RBI double in the first inning and a bloop single in the seventh, which ended a streak of 17 straight betters set aside.
”He was very good, and pitched different today. He had a little trouble at first finding his fastball, but he had his breaking ball going today and that kept them off balance,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. ”He made a good adjustment and found his fastball later.”
Trevor Rosenthal pitched the eighth inning in a driving rain for St. Louis, and Edward Mujica breezed through a perfect ninth for his 16th save of the season.
”Just the life, the energy — they’re enjoying showing up every day to play the game,” Matheny said, ”and you can tell they’re really lifting each other up.”
Things couldn’t be more different in the opposing clubhouse.
Kansas City has lost seven straight and 18 of its past 22, erasing a 17-10 start that had a beleaguered fan base finally starting to believe in something. The Royals’ 10 consecutive losses at Kauffman Stadium matches the franchise record set just last season.
”What are you asking me to do? Take my belt off and spank them? Yell at them, scream at them? What do you want?” Royals manager Ned Yost asked. ”Do we need to make changes? This can’t continue. Somewhere down the road, we’re going to have to make some changes.”
Their offense has been the biggest culprit: It’s produced eight runs total in the Royals’ past five games, and hasn’t scored more than four in a game since May 21 at Houston.
While the Cardinals had three homers Tuesday night, the Royals have that many in 14 games.
”If pressure turns into panic, you have a problem,” general manager Dayton Moore said prior to the game. ”Right now, we’ve just got to deal with the pressure in a way that is professional and with the right mindset and just get through it.”
St. Louis got off to a carbon-copy start of the previous night, when Yadier Molina hit a two-run homer in the first inning from the No. 2 spot in the lineup. This time, it was Beltran who went deep off Ervin Santana to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead after just seven pitches.
It was the first time the Cardinals got two-run shots from the No. 2 spot in the first inning in back-to-back games since 1998, when Ray Lankford hit both of them, according to STATS LLC. The Royals haven’t accomplished the same feat since Amos Otis went deep in consecutive games in 1976.
The Royals got one run back right away when Alex Gordon drew a leadoff walk — the Royals began the night with the third-fewest walks in the majors — and Butler drove him in with a double to left.
But that was the hardest-hit ball of the night by Kansas City, which set a season low for hits in a game. Lyons retired 17 in a row before Butler blooped his single down the right-field line with one out in the seventh inning, and then he left the Royals’ DH stranded on first base.
”I mean, I knew there had to be a few,” Lyons said of his streak of retired batters. ”I wasn’t sure how many there were, but I like not having to pitch out of the stretch, so that was good.”
Other than the home runs, Santana was nearly as effectively on the mound.
The Royals’ right-hander went 14 consecutive batters without allowing anybody on base at one point, and he was aided by double plays in the first and seventh innings to limit the damage.
Not even the best defense could keep the ball in the park, though. Santana allowed four homers to the Angels his last time out, and has allowed seven in his past two starts.
”That happens. I’m not trying to be perfect, just trying to make my pitch. If I miss, that’s how it is,” Santana said. ”I have to change the page and get them next time.”
Notes: Molina got a rare night off. He’d played in 58 of the Cardinals’ first 60 games. … Gordon was back in the leadoff spot for Kansas City. CF Lorenzo Cain batted third in the order for the first time. … RHP Jeremy Guthrie will be on the mound for Kansas City on Wednesday. RHP Lance Lynn will pitch for the Cardinals. … The game took 2 hours, 7 minutes to complete.