"That was definitely on our minds," manager Mike Matheny said. "Fortunately, we were able to get a little bit early and then add on some late."
Ross' night got off to an inauspicious start as he fed right into the Cardinals' patient approach. Unable to find the plate, Ross walked the bases loaded on 16 pitches.
"I came into this day knowing that my first at-bat, I was going to make him throw strikes," said Kolten Wong, who drew the second of those three walks. "When I faced him the first time, I was a lot more aggressive. It was the wrong approach."
The Cardinals took advantage, scoring first on Matt Adams' RBI single and then on a groundout by Jhonny Peralta. Ross did get out of the 32-pitch inning without further damage, but it would be a deep a hole for the Padres' low-scoring offense. San Diego is the only club with fewer runs scored this season than the Cardinals.
"Plain and simple, I just didn't have fastball command the first inning," Ross said. "I needed to make an adjustment, and unfortunately that didn't happen until the second inning."
Ross would only walk one more batter over his six-inning start, but command issues continued to plague him. He plunked outfielder Jon Jay twice, and Jay turned the free base in the fourth inning into the team's third run when Wong poked a two-out single to left.
The ability to capitalize on Ross' freebies was something the Cardinals hadn't been able to do when they faced him in San Diego just a little more than two weeks ago. Ross walked five in that start, but limited the Cards to one run while outdueling Lynn. This time, Lynn would finish ahead.
Lynn, who has emerged as a reliable front-line starter in this rotation, lowered his ERA to 2.91 while helping push the Cardinals' modest winning streak to three. The Padres tagged him for a run in the fifth, when Will Venable followed consecutive singles with a two-out double off the wall in right-center. Jace Peterson scored easily, but the Padres opted not to be aggressive in sending Ross home from first.
That risk aversion cost San Diego a run as Lynn powered his way out of the inning with a strikeout and popout.
"[Tommy Medica] had trouble with fastballs all night, so that was a pretty simple call right there," Lynn said. "Then Seth [Smith] … I wasn't going to give him anything over the plate. I was going to make him turn on something, and I was able to get out of it."
Lynn worked around a two-out double in the sixth to close out a start that would lift him to his 13th win of the season. He is the seventh National League pitcher to reach that plateau, and he also cracked the top 10 in NL starter ERA with his latest quality start. He may have gone deeper had the Padres not started fouling off so many of his pitches the second time through the order. Still, Lynn finished six innings for the seventh time in eight starts.
Lynn's allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his last eight starts, posting an ERA of 1.97 during that span.
"Just another good night of using his fastball," Matheny said. "He has a real nice feel for all of his pitches right now."
Oscar Taveras delivered a two-out, pinch-hit RBI single to extend the Cardinals' lead in the eighth, and it proved to be a handy cushion when Pat Neshek found himself in a pickle shortly thereafter.
With Trevor Rosenthal down after throwing 24 pitches the night before, Neshek emerged as Matheny's closer du jour. He notched his fourth save, but not before Yasmani Grandal took him 431 feet deep to right-center and the Padres rallied to bring the tying run to the plate.
Neshek then turned to his changeup to notch the game-ending strikeout.
"It was a tough one," Neshek later admitted of the 22-pitch inning. "I was kind of running on fumes at that point."