PHOENIX -- A three-run seventh inning, highlighted by run-scoring hits from Tommy Pham and Yadier Molina, helped the Cardinals to a 5-3 win as they opened a four-game series against the D-backs on Monday night at Chase Field.
The victory ensured St. Louis would maintain its 3 1/2-game lead in the National League Central over the surging Pirates, winners in eight of their last 10 games. Arizona's rapid climb up the NL West standings hit a halt as the team's four-game winning streak was snapped. The D-backs trail the first-place Dodgers by 5 1/2 games.
"Little things," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We did some little things wrong, but we did some little things right, too, and enough of the little ones on the positive side put us over the top."
Starting pitchers Jhoulys Chacin and Lance Lynn each allowed an early solo homer -- Welington Castillo went deep in the second for the D-backs, Matt Carpenter in the third for the Cards -- and two runs over their first six innings.
The Cardinals broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh, which opened with Chacin allowing a leadoff single to Greg Garcia. Relievers Andrew Chafin and Daniel Hudson couldn't get the D-backs out of the inning until after Pham knocked a go-ahead RBI single and Molina padded the lead with a two-out, two-run hit.
"It was a good job of hitting by Pham," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "He didn't try to do too much. He just used the hole there -- there's a big hole there with us trying to get a double play. And he did nice job of hitting. I think the hit to Molina was the one that kind of broke [Hudson's] back there. But a lot of people have given hits up to him in those situations. He's pretty good at capitalizing with guys in scoring position."
The runs positioned Lynn, whose night ended after the sixth, to become a 10-game winner for the fourth straight season. Trevor Rosenthal gave up a run in the ninth but sealed the win with his 39th save, one behind National League leader Mark Melancon.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Garcia's gamble: Fill-in second baseman Greg Garcia helped spark the Cardinals' decisive three-run seventh by alertly advancing from first to third on a sacrifice bunt by pinch-hitter Peter Bourjos. Garcia, who jammed his right thumb on his slide into third, scored the go-ahead run on Pham's single to left.
"I got on base, saw an opportunity to be aggressive to try to change the game, and it worked out this time," Garcia said. "It's one of those things that you have been taught since you were little, but it never comes up." More >
Missed opportunities: Three times the D-backs managed to load the bases, and all three times they came away without putting a run on the scoreboard. Aaron Hill and Paul Goldschmidt each hit into inning-ending double plays, while Castillo flied out deep to right to end a bases-loaded threat in the seventh.
"We had our chances," Hale said. "We did a great job of getting guys in scoring position for some of our good RBI guys, with Goldy and Aaron Hill coming up, and we just hit into some double plays. You also have to give the pitcher credit. He made good pitches, Molina called good pitches and they took advantage of us maybe being a little too aggressive." More >
Dial up the double plays: For the first time in his career, Lynn induced four double plays in a start. Beginning with the third inning, Lynn initiated a twin killings in four straight frames. Three of the double plays closed an inning, and two came with the bases full. Lynn became the first Cardinals pitcher since Chris Carpenter (Aug. 10, 2011) to tally four double plays in a start.
"He kept the ball down when we needed it and did a good job tonight," Molina said of his batterymate. "He's a fly-ball pitcher, but tonight he was a ground-ball pitcher." More >
Decent debut: Called up from Triple-A Reno earlier in the day, Chacin held the Cardinals to just a pair of runs, only one of which was earned, through six innings before being chased in the seventh. In all, it was a positive debut for a guy the D-backs are hoping provides some quality starts down the stretch.
"[Chacin] pitched well, did a great job, threw strikes, worked quick," Hale said. "He deserved a better fate. We didn't play very good defense behind him."
"After he threw me the sinker, I was trying to hit the ball on the right side, get the run in. I knew if I hit it on the right side they wouldn't turn two on me." -- Pham, on his game-winning hit off Hudson
WHAT'S NEXT Cardinals: Lefty Jaime Garcia will start on Tuesday as the Cards continue this four-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 8:40 p.m. CT. Garcia, who has a 1.78 ERA in 11 starts this season, is 4-0 with a 2.78 ERA in four career starts against Arizona.
D-backs: Arizona will counter with Robbie Ray in the 6:40 p.m. MST matchup. The lefty will be looking for his first win since July 7, when he beat the Rangers in Texas. This will be his first career start against the Cardinals.