Well-rounded approach leads Cards to sweep

BY foxsports • July 23, 2012

The offensive burst manager Mike Matheny and his team were looking for finally came this weekend. And the starting pitching, excellent as it had been, got even better.

The result was the Cardinals' best series for the season as they blanked the Chicago Cubs for the last 25 innings of the series and outscored them, 23-1, finishing it off with a 7-0 win behind right-hander Lance Lynn, a 12-game winner, who worked six scoreless innings  even though he didn't have his best stuff on Sunday.

"It was a well-rounded series," said Matheny.

The Cardinals failed to gain any ground on either Cincinnati or Pittsburgh at the top of the National League Central Division, remaining five games and 4 1/2 games behind, respectively. But Matheny said, "We're not worried about that. We worry about us."

Although left fielder Matt Holliday and right fielder Carlos Beltran, who homered for the first time in nearly a month, went back-to-back for the third time this season in the fifth inning, the matter essentially was more double trouble for the Cubs on Sunday.

The Cardinals had peppered the Cubs for a record-tying seven doubles in a 12-run seventh inning on Saturday night and then hit them with three more two-base hits in a four-run first inning on Sunday.

The final two came with two out as center fielder Jon Jay and backup catcher Tony Cruz both delivered two-run hits. It was a breakout game for Jay, who had been hitting in the low .200s for the last month. The double marked the start of his first four-hit game.

"It looks like his timing is getting there," said Matheny, who also commended Jay's defensive game, notably a catch he had to make after a long run to deprive pinch hitter Joe Mather, a former teammate, of an extra-base hit in the seventh.

"(Jay) has been fun to watch this season," said Matheny.

What was more fun, though, probably was to see his offense performing better with men on base.

"We talked about missing that ability," said Matheny. "It's not like we're asking them to do something beyond what they can do. They've been clutch performers before.

"These guys don't go up there scared with men in scoring position. It just wasn't working."

RHP Lance Lynn gained his 12th win Sunday, giving up no runs over six innings although he had just one clean inning. Lynn has allowed only one run over his last 13 innings since the All-Star break. "We've seen some sharper starts," said manager Mike Matheny. "He was high in pitch count but ? he continues to make good pitches when he gets into a little bit of a jam." Lynn admitted, "Command-wise, I wasn't where I needed to be early in the count. The first two innings, I let a guy steal second. They had a good jump on me both times. After that, I was able to make pitches and they swung and missed." Lynn said he thought the eight days' off he had after the end of the first half hadn't really helped him. "I actually felt like I've been off a little bit because of the long rest," he said. "But it's about making pitches when I had to and that's all that matters."
LF Matt Holliday has hit safely in 18 of his last 19 games, including a double and his second home run in three games on Sunday. Holliday and others had been criticized for not delivering big hits in key situations until this weekend. But Holliday said, "We have good hitters. We weren't going to score as little as we did the first two series (after the All-Star break). Maybe it was the four days off or how they pitched us. But I was pretty confident that wasn't going to be the case the rest of the year." The Cardinals scored only 15 runs on a six-game trip to Cincinnati and Milwaukee. They got 23 in three games against Chicago.
RF Carlos Beltran's 21st homer on Sunday was the 200th of his National League career to go with the 123 he had for Kansas City in the American League. It was, however, his first homer since June 24. Beltran and LF Matt Holliday hit back-to-back homers for the third time this season. The Cardinals have done it seven times overall.
SS Rafael Furcal, who seemed to be emerging from a six-week skid, had back-to-back two-hit games on Friday and Saturday but on a hot Sunday, manager Mike Matheny rested Furcal, who had played 91 of the team's first 94 games. "Raffy needed a day off," said Matheny, who also rested 1B Lance Berkman and C Yadier Molina.
RHP Fernando Salas and LHP Marc Rzepczynski finished up for RHP Lance Lynn on Sunday, working three scoreless innings and running the Cardinal bullpen's streak to 11 spotless innings over the last six games.
16 Number of consecutive games in which a Cardinals starter has given up two earned runs or fewer in the first six innings of a game.
"We're finding a way to lose games rather than win games. We are certainly underachieving. I believe we have a team that should be 20 games over .500."     RHP Adam Wainwright, after the Cardinals lost five of six games on a trip. Wainwright's words must have been heeded. The Cardinals outscored the Chicago Cubs, 23-1, over the weekend in a three-game sweep.

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