PITTSBURGH -- With his Cardinals career seemingly set to come to an end after this season, Lance Lynn took the mound Saturday seeking to increase the chances that he could extend that stay beyond next weekend.
But as he took a hit, so too did the Cardinals' postseason chances. Unable to get through one inning, Lynn spent the next three hours watching the Pirates turn the worst start of his Major League career into an 11-6 win. The loss cost the Cards a chance to inch closer to the leaders in both the National League Central and NL Wild Card races.
"This is my first year back [from Tommy John surgery]," Lynn said. "I've had a good run, and I need to finish strong. That's all it's about. I'm going to look forward to the next one, regroup and get back at it."
He is guaranteed only one more start this year, and in it, Lynn will look to discard any festering frustrations from a night that quickly went off script at PNC Park. The Pirates peppered him with hits, beginning with a leadoff double minutes after Tommy Pham's home run had staked Lynn to a quick lead.
Former teammate David Freese tied the game with a two-run single, and Dexter Fowler's inability to catch -- or at least corral -- Jordy Mercer's sinking line drive to shallow center turned into a three-run triple. After issuing a two-out walk to the 10th batter he faced, Lynn's night was over.
"It looked like he was just missing and that got him into bad counts," manager Mike Matheny said. "It can be just too much movement, but he wasn't able to make the adjustments to get back on the plate. Then they got in position where they needed big hits, and they stacked them one on top of each other to the point where he couldn't stop the bleeding."
In finishing just two-thirds of an inning, Lynn matched the shortest start of his career (also against Pittsburgh). The eight earned runs allowed established a new career high. He had surrendered seven runs in an outing four times previously, including twice against the Pirates.
"Tonight when I made a pitch, it was either fouled off or didn't get me the result I wanted," Lynn said.
Of the six hits Lynn allowed, five had Statcast™ hit probabilities of greater than 50 percent based upon the exit velocity and launch angle measurements.
While Lynn once again emphasized how pleased he is to be feeling strong this late into his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, he has been skidding toward the finish line. After a stretch of 12 consecutive six-inning starts, Lynn hasn't pitched past the fifth in any of his last three. He's given up 14 earned runs in those three games, one fewer than opponents totaled off him in 11 starts out of the All-Star break.
A chance to rectify that will come on Thursday, when he starts against the Cubs in a game that could be dripping with postseason implications.
"He's been so good all season long," Matheny remarked. "You have to let that one go."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.