ST. LOUIS -- One game does not change a season trajectory, but Monday's 2-1 victory over the Pirates can serve as a blueprint for a Cardinals team yearning to turn things around.
A team that stumbled to a 3-9 start and looked unsound in most areas used one of its most complete games of the season to snap a three-game losing streak. The starting pitching was stellar, with Lance Lynn covering seven scoreless innings. And the bullpen, even with a ninth-inning hiccup, was sturdier than it's been.
Complementing that were timely hits, aggressive baserunning and a handful of stellar defensive plays to ensure that the Cardinals did just enough to spoil Ivan Nova's complete-game effort for Pittsburgh.
"Just how things have been going, the sluggish play, we were kind of getting tired of it as a team in general," said Kolten Wong, whose third-inning homer provided Lynn an early cushion. "So we came out with different energy. We're at a point right now where we want guys to go out and push as hard as you can."
Lynn set the tone as he rolled to his first victory since undergoing Tommy John surgery in November 2015. He became the second Cardinals pitcher in nine games to complete seven innings, and he didn't cough up a lead as two of the three starters had in the team's most recent series against the Yankees.
In fact, Lynn hardly blinked. The Pirates never advanced a runner to third against him.
"You want to be known as the stopper when you go through a rotation and you see that we've not pitched the way that we're capable of, not played the way we're capable of," Lynn said. "You want to be a guy that gets going and stops it and now we can go. Hopefully, we'll bring that into the next start and so on and find a rhythm here."
Around him, the Cardinals, at least for one night, put the pieces together. Consecutive fielding gems by third baseman Greg Garcia and left fielder Randal Grichuk to open the seventh highlighted a steady defensive performance by a team that entered the day ranked last in the Majors in defensive runs saved.
A team that was built to be more athletic showed it for a change, too, when Grichuk swiped second base to set up a scoring opportunity in the seventh. He advanced to third on a throwing error and scored a critical insurance run on Jose Martinez's single to follow.
"I was encouraging them even before the game, let's be aggressive," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think you have a tendency sometimes when you're going through a rut like this to fear making a mistake, and then you're passive. And I think that can take away from something that I believe is a strength of ours."
For a club so fundamentally flawed during the first two weeks, it all seemed to be a pivot back toward the look it hopes to have.
"I think that's sort of where this club is at this point," general manager John Mozeliak said. "It needs to find a way to build a little momentum, get itself to where a small thing is a big thing."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.