By Jenifer Langosch and Jeffrey Flanagan
ST. LOUIS -- Tyler Lyons, summoned from Triple-A to start in place of an injured Lance Lynn, snapped his string of 13 winless starts by helping pitch the Cardinals to a 3-2 win over the Royals in front of a sellout Busch Stadium crowd on Saturday. The victory, No. 41 of the season for St. Louis, ensured the Cardinals of a series win over their intrastate rivals.
"I would say it's the best execution I've had up here," said Lyons, who had made three previous spot starts this season. "I wouldn't say it's the best I've felt necessarily, but just from pitch-to-pitch, I think the execution was as good as it's been for me this year. [I] didn't fall behind too many batters, and when I did, I paid for it. They had two solo shots."
The Cardinals peppered Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie for five hits (including three with two outs) to score twice in the third. After tallying an infield single in that frame, Mark Reynolds took Guthrie deep to put the Cardinals back ahead in the fifth. Guthrie, like Lyons, did not return after rain stopped play for 24 minutes before the start of the sixth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED On the Mark: Reynolds, the Cardinals' cleanup hitter, helped extend a two-run third by beating out an infield hit and then later connected for a tie-breaking solo homer. Reynolds dove around the tag from first baseman Kendrys Morales to tally his seventh infield hit of the season. He came around to score after hits from Yadier Molina and Jason Heyward. With a home run in his next at-bat, Reynolds went deep for the first time since May 19.
"I'm just trying to put more balls in play and see what happens," said Reynolds, who has more infield hits [seven] so far than home runs [four]. "I kind of pick my spots when I want to open up and try to pull the ball. When everybody is throwing 97 [mph] with cutters these days, you have to make adjustments. Right now, that's what I've been doing."
Playing long ball: The Royals' offense has been struggling lately, but Gordon and Perez did provide some instant pop. Gordon jumped on a Lyons slider in the second inning and belted it over the right-field fence, giving the Royals a 1-0 lead. Perez led off the fourth with a towering fly into the left-field corner that snuck inside the foul pole for his team-leading 10th homer.
While the Royals' offensive woes continue, Gordon isn't too alarmed.
"We just swept a series in Minnesota," Gordon said. "We lost two here….everybody is going to lose two in a row at some point. We're a good offensive team. We'll get out of this [offensive] slump."
Royals manager Ned Yost said he isn't about to make any sweeping changes.
"A lot of times what makes slumps worse is when managers start panicking and trying to push buttons," Yost said. "We know we have a good offensive team. We know we're going to have ups and downs. You have to stay steady and not jump the order. It will get to the point where you have to make changes but I learned from Bobby [Cox]: He'd always say 'I'm going to get to the point where I'm going to make changes and then wait a week.' That's why he's a Hall of Famer."
Closing time: For the third time this season, Mike Matheny turned to his closer Trevor Rosenthal for a one-plus inning save. Rosenthal, entering with two out in the eighth, allowed a leadoff single and fell behind Gordon, 3-0, before inducing a popup to strand two. He then navigated through the ninth to notch his league-best 21st save in 22 opportunities. Rosenthal has thrown 17 2/3 straight scoreless innings. Five Cardinals relievers combined to throw four scoreless innings on Saturday.
"He's the guy we want with the ball, and that's kind of what it comes down to," Matheny said of going to Rosenthal earlier than usual. "When we get into those situations, if he's healthy, semi-fresh, we want him out there."
Missed chances: All phases of the Royals offense are struggling, and that includes situational hitting. The Royals had a chance to take the lead in the first with Lorenzo Cain on third and one out. But Alex Rios swung at a pitch well out of the zone, as did Morales behind him. The Royals again had a runner on third with one out in the sixth. But Perez hit a broken-bat grounder to third and was thrown out. After an intentional walk to Gordon, Christian Colon struck out. The Royals also lost a chance in the eighth when, with Cain on first, right fielder Heyward made an incredible catch while fighting the sun to take away extra bases from Morales. More >
"That was a lucky catch," Yost said. "He wasn't even looking. There's some skill involved, but he wasn't even looking and it wound up in his glove. That's when you start thinking, 'Whoa, we're in trouble here.'"
"I saw it off the bat, and that was the last time I saw it until I went to throw it in. You just hope. You just hope. That one found me, and thank God it did. … I was surprised when it hit my glove." -- Heyward, on preserving a one-run lead with an eighth-inning catch on a ball he lost in the sun
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Chris Young will face the Cardinals for the second time this season in Sunday's series finale at 1:15 p.m. CT. Young threw six shutout innings in a 5-0 win on May 22. Over his career, Young is 11-2 in Interleague games.
Cardinals:John Lackey, coming off his worst start of the season, will pitch Sunday's series finale for the Cardinals. Lackey was knocked around for 10 runs (eight earned) in a four-inning start at Coors Field on Monday. He lost a rain-shortened start to Kansas City last month.