Lackey provides another deep Cards outing

Starters have lasted at least five innings in every game since May 16

Lackey provides another deep Cards outing

ST. LOUIS -- John Lackey insisted that the story of the Cardinals' 7-4 win over Milwaukee was a previously dormant St. Louis offense that broke out for five first-inning runs on Wednesday at Busch Stadium. But it was Lackey's pitching performance that embodied the story of the Cardinals' season to date.

The veteran right-hander became the fifth St. Louis starter in the last six games to pitch at least seven innings as he worked behind a comfortable cushion to record his fourth win of the season. The last time a reliever pitched before the sixth inning for the Cardinals was on May 16, when fill-in starter Tyler Lyons just 3 2/3 innings against the Tigers.

Since then, 17 games have passed with St. Louis cementing the best team ERA in the Majors, all without ace Adam Wainwright, who was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon in April.

"They've done it this far," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Why can't it be sustainable? I get it that there's a lot of numbers that say it would be hard to [sustain the success], but I don't want them even glimpsing at that."

With 109 games left to play, Lackey, who was a part of World Series winning rotations in Anaheim (2002) and Boston ('13), offered a more cautionary assessment of the pitching, but one rife with praise.

"It's still pretty early, but as far as talent-wise, we've got some guys with some really good arms, especially Carlos [Martinez] and [Michael] Wacha," Lackey said. "Lance [Lynn] is coming into his own, kind of prime, and Jaime [Garcia] has come in and really helped us out with some quality starts. We've got a long way to go, but we're doing all right right now."

David Cobb is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.