Lyons makes starting case with 4 2/3 shutout frames

Lyons makes starting case with 4 2/3 shutout frames

ST. LOUIS -- Regardless of whether Tyler Lyons' terrific long relief stint on Saturday earns him consideration for a start during the next turn through the Cardinals' rotation, it at least positioned the Cardinals well for the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Cubs.

With Lyons covering 4 2/3 innings behind Justin Masterson, the Cardinals were able to stay away from the rest of their bullpen on Saturday afternoon. That will give manager Mike Matheny a full complement of seven relievers behind Marco Gonzales in Game 2.

"We obviously needed that," Matheny said after the Cardinals' 5-1 afternoon loss. "We needed somebody to come in and pick us up. He did a terrific job."

The appearance was Lyons' first since being recalled from Triple-A on Monday and his eighth for the Cardinals this season. He was fresh, not having pitched since an Aug. 19 start in Memphis, and especially efficient. Lyons faced 14 batters, and threw a first-pitch strike to 10 of them. Of the 52 pitches he threw, 41 were strikes.

"I just wanted to attack the zone and go right at them," Lyons said. "It's a tough situation for the team, because you have another game here in three hours. You want to try and save as much of the bullpen as you can. This time of the year, everyone is wearing down to some extent. To be able to do that and not have to use anybody else is a good thing for the bullpen."

Lyons allowed only one hit -- Starlin Castro's single to lead off the eighth -- and promptly erased Castro by catching him trying to swipe second. Eight of Lyons' outs came via the strikeout, a career high for a pitcher who had previously made 12 starts for the Cardinals.

"He did have a good rhythm," Matheny said. "He was feeling good. Most of the time you see these guys have good results, the ball is coming out of their hand, they want to get back up there and make the next pitch. Tyler is one of those guys. He has been throwing the ball well in Triple-A, and it really translated well for us here.

Lyons may have been simultaneously auditioning for a starting job, too, as Masterson's shaky performance could bump him from the rotation. Lyons made four spot starts for the Cardinals earlier this season. Asked if Lyons had earned himself a chance at an increased role, Matheny only said: "We'll see."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for 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.