The game plan called for Lance Lynn to spend his first full season in the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen. Instead, the young right-hander has emerged as one of the game’s best pitchers of any age.
The 25-year-old Lynn struck out a career-high 12 despite back tightness to stay tied for the major league lead in wins, and Carlos Beltran hit his NL-best 19th home run Wednesday night to send the St. Louis Cardinals to a 1-0 victory over the White Sox that ended Chicago’s eight-game road winning streak.
”Every time I go out there I think like it’s 0-0, whatever inning it is and whoever’s up. You don’t want to give up a hit ever, or a run ever,” Lynn said after outdueling Jake Peavy. ”I was able to keep them off the board.”
Paul Konerko grounded into a game-ending double play with runners on first and third against Jason Motte.
”I knew they had it,” Lynn said. ”It was a little interesting, but it was fun.”
Motte pounded Konerko inside before the cleanup man hit a bouncer to third.
”If he’s hitting his spots it’s tough to put a good swing on it,” Konerko said. ”A little deceptiveness, but more than anything he was just hitting spots.”
Beltran homered in the third inning off Peavy (6-2) and had three of the four hits for the Cardinals, who have scored only seven runs in the last five games and totaled a single run for the third straight game. They’ve won just five of 14.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he almost scratched Beltran, who has been bothered by stomach issues, before the game.
”Mike wanted to take me out of the lineup and I said yesterday I played like that, and I was fine,” Beltran said. ”Today was good.”
Lynn (10-2) allowed three hits in 7 1/3 innings and joined Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey as the only 10-game winners in the majors. Dickey threw a one-hitter at Tampa Bay earlier in the night.
Lynn replaced injured Chris Carpenter in the rotation. He topped his previous career best of 11 strikeouts while going six innings during his last start at Houston.
Beltran has been a force batting second, hitting 11 homers from that spot in 20 starts compared with seven long balls at cleanup in 32 games. All but five of his homers have come batting left-handed, and 11 have come with the bases empty.
Peavy worked seven innings and gave up four hits with six strikeouts and two walks in the hard-luck loss, retiring 13 of his last 14 hitters. He had entered an American League-best 3-0 with a 1.75 ERA on the road and had won six in a row away from home with a 1.44 ERA overall dating to Aug. 7, 2011.
Like Lynn, who said his back has been bothering him for about a week, Peavy came into the game at less than full strength. Peavy said he’s been ill the last few days.
”I had some kind of concoction that got me through the night,” Peavy said. ”I had to throttle back and maybe that helped me a little bit mechanically.
”They were aggressive and they were swinging and we got some quick outs. It just wasn’t meant to be tonight.”
Marc Rzepczynski got pinch-hitter Adam Dunn to ground sharply into a double play to end the eighth and Motte finished for his 12th save in 15 chances. Matheny went right back to Rzepczynski, a night after Dunn homered in the eighth inning to help the White Sox pull away for a 6-1 victory.
”That’s good, I wanted to face him,” Rzepczynski said. ”It’s one of those things, when a guy gets you, you want to go out there and face him the next day and have a chance to get him out.”
Dunn, a pregame lineup scratch due to a slightly sprained ankle, has grounded into just two double plays. Dunn said he injured his ankle homering off Rzepczynski.
Matheny gave Lynn a vote of confidence when he let him bat with two outs and none on in the seventh. Lynn struck out Alexei Ramirez for the third time to open the eighth, then was lifted after Orlando Hudson singled up the middle.
Lynn’s strongest save came in the fifth when Alex Rios was stranded at third after a leadoff triple. Lynn struck out three of the next four, fanning Peavy after a two-out intentional walk to Hudson.
The Cardinals had just three at-bats with runners in scoring position against Peavy, whose biggest out was striking out David Freese after consecutive two-out walks to Matt Holliday and Allen Craig in the third.
NOTES: St. Louis’ Matt Carpenter (right side) will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis on Thursday and could join the team next week. Carpenter has started at 1B, 3B and RF and said ”for me, it’s not like it’s going to take a week of at-bats.” … Cardinals 2B-OF Skip Schumaker (strained right hamstring) began a rehab assignment with Memphis and could return from the disabled list on time. … Peavy has allowed seven homers in his last eight starts after giving up just one in his first five outings. … Peavy has been getting an average of 6.1 runs of support per nine innings. … Alejandro De Aza had two hits and is 11-for-27 (.407) during a six-game hitting streak.