PITTSBURGH -- Though winless in his last 12 Major League starts, Tyler Lyons looked much improved in Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Pirates following his rocky season debut against the Cubs last week. That's good news for the Cardinals, too, who are going to need at least one more start (and maybe more) from him before Jaime Garcia or Marco Gonzales could be ready as a rotation replacement.
This time aided by his fastball command instead of undone by the lack of it, Lyons covered five-plus innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits. He left a pitch over the plate that Jung Ho Kang belted for a first-inning homer, and then he missed his spot on a sixth-inning fastball that Andrew McCutchen turned into a double. McCutchen would later come around to score.
In between, however, Lyon's biggest mistake was his errant delivery trying to throw Starling Marte out at first base. The two-base error cost Lyons a run.
"I thought my only chance was to get there and let it rip fast," Lyons said. "Obviously, not the throw I wanted, but I thought it was kind of do-or-die there."
With sharper fastball command on Sunday, Lyons was able to throw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 21 batters he faced. He had quicker innings, in turn, and was able to use his breaking pitches more effectively.
"I made a lot more quality pitches today than I did the first outing," Lyons said. "I was able to pitch off my fastball, get ahead in counts and do those things that allow you to get people out at a more efficient pace. For me, it was definitely better than my first one."
With neither Gonzales nor Garcia able to finish three innings in their respective Triple-A starts this weekend, the Cardinals will need Lyons to remain a fifth-starter stopgap for a while longer. Garcia, who threw 72 pitches in his outing on Sunday, could be ready after one more start for Memphis, but the Cardinals also don't want to rush his return. Ensuring Garcia has no health issues remains a priority.
As for Lyons, that means he lines up to start next for the Cardinals on Saturday against Detroit.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.