That big hit that could have produced a crooked inning early never arrived.
"I guess you could say he made his pitches when he needed to," said Stephen Piscotty, who both walked and hit into a double play against Lamb.
"Pitchers that are wildly effective are tough to throw good ABs on and tough to get a good swing off of sometimes because they can be all over the place," added Jason Heyward. "I'm not taking credit away from him, but when you're in the strike zone, out of the strike zone, then make a great pitch, it's going to work in your favor a lot, especially when nobody's faced him."
And where the Cardinals couldn't capitalize, the Reds did. Starter Jaime Garcia had his own command issues, walking four in a start that lasted a season-short 4 1/3 innings. Trouble commanding the exceptional movement he gets on his pitches has bitten Garcia before, though in the three previous starts where he walked four or more, he allowed a combined three runs.
On Thursday, those walks compounded innings. Two of the batters he put on scored, while another helped load the bases for Lamb, who then beat out a potential double-play grounder to plate a run.
"No excuse," Garcia said. "Just have to do a better job than that and figure out what we need to do next outing. I have to be better out there."
Garcia may have navigated around the issues without too much damage had things gone differently in the fifth. An infield single and walk set up a run-scoring opportunity for Joey Votto, who then worked an 0-2 count full before lacing an RBI double into the left-field corner. That kick-started a four-run inning that Garcia wouldn't stick around to see finish.
"Things just kind of fell apart," manager Mike Matheny said. "We had some misses that, once again, we had trouble recuperating from. A high pitch count that got into deeper counts and then finding too much of the plate in the top of the zone."
The short and ineffective start was just the latest in a growing list of them that may soon begin to concern the Cardinals. Over the last eight games, a rotation that had been baseball's best, has a 6.80 ERA and just one win.
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.