Cards slug their way to I-70 sweep of KC

Cards slug their way to I-70 sweep of KC

Cards slug their way to I-70 sweep of KC
KANSAS CITY -- The Cardinals have been gracious with run support behind Lance Lynn all season. And on Sunday, the laboring right-hander needed most of it.

St. Louis' ability to earn a three-game sweep of the Royals was a credit to the offense, which capped its most productive series of the season by lifting the Cardinals to an 11-8 win in front of 29,063 at Kauffman Stadium.

The sweep was the team's first since May 21-23. The club scored 30 runs over the past three days, the most in a three-game series since plating 31 against the D-backs from April 11-13, 2011.

"This was a big series," David Freese said. "Regardless of who you are playing, a sweep is a sweep. Getting that swagger back a little bit is good."

While the offense couldn't make Lynn a winner, it did keep the righty from taking a third loss in five June starts. Joining Milwaukee's Ryan Braun as co-National League leaders, Beltran got things rolling by belting his 20th homer with two aboard in the first.

Kansas City's Jonathan Sanchez assisted the Cardinals with two walks in the second and followed that with a two-out wild pitch that allowed Shane Robinson to score. Matt Holliday's double added another run. It marked the second time this series that the Cards scored at least five times before the third.

"We're starting to play better baseball and do things right," said Beltran, who now leads the NL with 56 RBIs. "It's about time we start doing better."

After the Royals made their charge to tie the game at 5, Yadier Molina broke it with a sixth-inning solo homer. When Kansas City answered back again, Freese delivered a go-ahead RBI single with two out in the seventh.

Freese then saved the tying run from scoring with a terrific barehanded grab-and-throw on a slow grounder to end the bottom half of the frame.

"You're looking to glove it, and then I just decided to barehand it," said Freese, who likely wouldn't have had a play otherwise. "It was a big play. It was nice to keep the lead and set us up for the win."

St. Louis ended any suspense by scoring four in the eighth, with the assistance of three walks (two intentional). Allen Craig followed an RBI hit by Daniel Descalso with a two-run single. Holliday capped his big series with a sacrifice fly.

Though the Cardinals finished with only eight hits -- six fewer than the Royals -- they scored six times off walks. The club went 5-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

"This was a tough series, man," said Kansas City's Billy Butler. "They came out swinging the bats and had a good series offensively."

Lynn's afternoon was not nearly as personally enjoyable. While concern would be entirely premature, this is now back-to-back starts in which Lynn has been unable to finish six innings -- a mark that he routinely met, and many times easily surpassed, through the season's first two months.

Lynn has been undeniably key in helping the Cards mitigate the absence of Chris Carpenter, but this outing was a blow to his chances of making it an All-Star worthy first half.

Handed the quick three-run lead, Lynn served up a two-run shot to Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas in the bottom half of the inning. The Royals evened the game in the fourth, again with a blast from Moustakas.

Jeff Francoeur also took Lynn deep. The Cards righty had allowed only five homers in 86 2/3 innings coming into the day.

"They're just hitting my mistakes, whereas before I was getting away with them," Lynn said. "I have to stop making so many mistakes."

By the time Lynn's outing went in the books, Kansas City had scored six times -- a season high off Lynn -- and knocked the righty around for nine hits. Lynn struck out a season-low two.

His 5 2/3-innings start was hardly more encouraging than the five-inning outing he had last week in Detroit -- surrendering five runs in that game.

Lynn described the outings as "the worst two starts of my career."

His ERA has jumped from 2.42 to 3.23 during that two-game span. And while he still ranks second in the National League with 10 wins, that ERA is pedestrian enough that it likely won't earn him a trip back to Kansas City next month.

"To me, mechanically he looks the same," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's just making a few mistakes. There certainly isn't reason to start panicking. It's way too early. The guy is right there, to me, an All-Star. He just had a couple games here where he wasn't as consistent."

Matheny also downplayed questions about Lynn's short-term durability.

Though the general consensus is that Lynn can handle as heavy a workload as anyone else in the Cardinals' rotation, that may not be the case this year. Lynn has already logged 92 innings, only 17 2/3 innings shy of the number he covered in 2011. Pitching in the bullpen and missing two months due to an oblique injury affected last year's total.

Lynn's month-by-month ERA this year would support a theory of increasing fatigue. After finishing April with a 1.33 ERA, Lynn was at 3.44 in May. In June, it is 4.76.

Lynn, though, was quick to deny any physical wear.

"I feel fine," he said. "Today was the best I've felt physically all year. I just didn't get it done."

The Cards wrapped up Interleague Play, 8-7, and climbed to within one game of the Pirates and two of the Reds in the NL Central standings, as both suffered defeats on Sunday.

"I think," Matheny said, "everybody is leaving here in a pretty good spot."

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