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STL@ATL: Lynn strikes out eight over seven frames

ATLANTA -- Facing an Atlanta team mired in their own dismal stretch, the Cardinals capitalized on enough opportunities to make Lance Lynn an eight-game winner in the team's 8-2 win on Monday afternoon. An announced crowd of 42,426 was at Turner Field to see St. Louis take its first game against the Braves in four tries this season.

Atlanta has dropped eight straight. As for the Cardinals, they'll take their modest back-to-back wins, which follow a 3-7 stretch.

"Just relentless at-bats," manager Mike Matheny said of his team. "That's what it felt like."

There was also Lynn, who, minutes after Philadelphia's Cole Hamels became the first pitcher to reach the eight-win mark this season, provided Hamels with some company. Matheny called Lynn's performance "probably his best game" this season.

Lynn, who tossed seven aggressive innings, concurred.

"I might have had my best stuff of the year," Lynn said. "I knew where everything was going for the most part."

The beneficiary of above-average run support all season, Lynn was supported heartily again. The Cardinals' run-scoring opportunities were so plentiful that it turned out not to matter that they squandered several of them early.

St. Louis knocked Braves starter Tommy Hanson out with one out in the fourth. By then, the Cardinals were leading, 5-0.

After loading the bases with no outs in the first and not scoring, the Cardinals left a runner stranded at third in the second. An inning later, though, they pushed across four runs with some assistance from Atlanta.

"It was frustrating when you have a guy on the ropes like that and you let him get out of that," Daniel Descalso said. "It was nice that we did actually get another chance."

With two on and one out, Atlanta first baseman Eric Hinske was slow to make a toss to first after fielding a grounder. That allowed Matt Adams enough time to reach safely.

A passed ball scored the team's first run and, after Carlos Beltran was thrown out in between third and home on a botched squeeze attempt, Yadier Molina drove home one with a single.

"They capitalize on mistakes," Atlanta catcher Brian McCann said. "We got crossed up there in the fourth to let a run score. It's one of those things where that inning just kept going."

Descalso, starting in place of a mildly injured David Freese, capped the inning with a two-run homer.

"I think today was more about my fastball command and my inability to make pitches when I needed to," said Hanson, who had allowed one run in five innings in a May 13 start against St. Louis. "I made them at times. But I wasn't consistently making the pitches that I needed to make against a good offensive team like the Cardinals."

Rafael Furcal homered in the fourth, and a pair of walks gave Adams another shot with runners in scoring position.

His at-bat with the bases loaded in the first ended ugly, with Adams swinging at a pair of pitches well outside the strike zone. He described his approach afterward as "anxious."

But unprompted, Adams made the conscious change.

"I started swinging at the pitches that I knew I could handle," he said.

That led to an RBI single in the fourth. He followed with a two-out, two-run double in the sixth.

"He just slowed everything down and was breathing a little bit and trusted himself," Matheny said. "He ended up having big opportunities again that he capitalized on."

Lynn took the run support and parlayed it into his eighth win in 10 starts. Atlanta was the only club Lynn had lost to this season. While he didn't tweak his pitching plan against the Braves, he did execute much more effectively.

It made all the difference.

"He had fire in his eye today," Matheny said. "There's no question. There was something about him from the time we sat in here for the meeting and then when he took the mound."

That look translated into an aggressive performance in which he threw 71 of his 107 pitches for strikes. After the first inning, Lynn threw first-pitch strikes to 18 of the last 23 batters.

During his recent dip in results, Lynn found his sinker often cutting side-to-side. Lynn regained the downward movement on Monday by righting his arm slot. That allowed him to better use both sides of the plate and minimize the number of pitches he left over it.

"I was just making better pitches," said Lynn, who gave up three runs in six innings against Atlanta earlier in the month. "Last time they fouled balls off, because a lot of balls were over the plate. Today I was able to hit in and out, and I was able to start mixing in offspeed pitches later in the game."

That stymied an Atlanta offense that has scored more runs than any club in the National League besides the Cardinals. In seven innings, Lynn surrendered five hits. Three came consecutively in the fourth inning to plate the Braves' only two runs.

A terrific diving stop by Tyler Greene -- who, due to a shift, was playing in shallow right field -- ended the inning without additional damage. That was the first of nine consecutive batters Lynn retired. He wrapped up his day by striking out pinch-hitter Matt Diaz to strand two in the seventh.

"He's not a secret in the league anymore," Matheny said of his starter. "To go out in this start and make it his best one says a lot about him. He was impressive today. That's the kind of approach he needs to continue to have."

With the win and Cincinnati's loss, the Cardinals climb back to within a half-game of the top spot in the National League Central. This also marked the third time this year that St. Louis has scored eight runs in consecutive games.

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