Lyons saves bullpen with scoreless long relief

Lyons saves bullpen with scoreless long relief

ST. LOUIS -- Tyler Lyons couldn't erase the damage done from Pittsburgh's seven-run first inning with 5 1/3 frames of scoreless relief in the Cardinals' 10-5 loss to the Pirates on Thursday. But he did ensure the Cardinals' bullpen would not be wearing the consequences of Lance Lynn's early exit for additional days.

Lyons, making his first appearance since being recalled last Friday, became the first Cardinals pitcher since Kyle McClellan (2011) to throw five-plus innings in relief and the first since Manny Aybar (1999) to do so without allowing a run. It was also the start of 7 1/3 scoreless frames from the bullpen, a string snapped when the Pirates scored three times off Seth Maness in the ninth.

"It's obviously not the ideal situation to be thrown into," Lyons said. "Lance is a guy who usually goes deep into games. But you have to be ready for anything and just try to make the most of an opportunity."

Concerned they didn't have adequate long-relief coverage, the Cardinals brought Lyons back from Triple-A Memphis for the fourth time this season. It was the first time that he came without the specific task of providing a spot start.

Thursday felt much like one, however, as Lyons was into the game before Lynn could record the night's first three outs. Lyons allowed one inherited runner to score when Neil Walker greeted him with a single, but the lefty then bandaged the bleeding by retiring Andrew McCutchen.

Over the next five innings, Lyons faced just two over the minimum. The only runner to reach scoring position against him did so with the aid of a passed ball. Lyons was efficient along the way, too, throwing only 69 pitches in getting the Cardinals to the seventh inning. From there, the Cardinals had to use just three other relievers (all well-rested) to get through the rest of the night.

"To give him a chance to go out and extend a little was just what we needed," manager Mike Matheny said.

Lyons was plenty rested, as his last outing had been a 100-pitch start for Memphis back on Aug. 3. To make up for the lack of work since then, he had thrown off the mound several times over the past week.

"It's a lot easier at this time of the year," Lyons said of handling the extended hiatus. "That many days off probably has a different effect in April or May. But right now, I've thrown enough over the course of the year, that it's a little easier to stay in rhythm."

In getting the game back under control, Lyons also bought time for the Cardinals' offense to make the game much more intriguing than it first appeared it would be. After Yadier Molina's seventh-inning sacrifice fly pulled the Cardinals to within two, Kolten Wong stepped in as the potential go-ahead run. Pirates reliever Tony Watson struck him out to end the Cardinals' last true threat of the evening.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.