Cardinals return home to face Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates will play three against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium this weekend.

Following impressive wins in their respective road series, the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates appear to be playing with some confidence as they open a three-game set.

Right-hander Lance Lynn will try to build on an outstanding performance and pitch the Cardinals to a fourth straight win Friday night when they host the Pirates, who are also trying to extend their win streak to four.

St. Louis (13-8) completed a three-game sweep in Washington with a 4-2 victory Wednesday and concluded a nine-game trip with six wins.

Matt Holliday and Matt Carpenter each had three hits and left-hander Jaime Garcia gave the Cardinals another solid pitching effort to beat the Nationals - one of the favorites to win the NL.

Now they'll turn to Lynn (3-0, 3.68 ERA), who gave up only a leadoff double in the fifth and struck out eight over seven innings in a 5-0 win at Philadelphia last Saturday.

"I'm a better pitcher when I'm pitching with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder," said Lynn, who had allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings of a 10-6 win at Pittsburgh in his previous start.

After a 1-5 start, the Pirates (13-9) seem to be playing with a similar attitude and captured their 12th win in 16 games by rallying for a 6-4 victory at Philadelphia on Thursday.

"You don't try to explain it,'' manager Clint Hurdle said. "We just play the game, one at a time. I really like our focus and intensity."

Gaby Sanchez led the way with a homer and three RBIs, while Garrett Jones hit a go-ahead, two-run double in the eighth inning as the Pirates took three of four for their first series win in Philadelphia since 2003.

Pittsburgh's pitching staff has played a major role, allowing 13 runs while posting a 1.89 ERA over its last seven games.

Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez (0-2, 11.12), however, hasn't made it past the fourth inning in each of his last two starts.

After allowing nine runs in 3 1-3 innings in a loss at Arizona, Sanchez threw 74 pitches while giving up two runs and four hits over three innings in a 4-2 win over Atlanta on Sunday.

He's 0-11 with an 8.87 ERA over his last 17 starts dating to last season.

While the Cardinals aren't exactly pounding the ball with .215 batting average over their last eight games, they have been successful manufacturing runs and relying on their pitching and defense to win games.

"When we're not banging balls into the stands every single night, we've got to do other things, whether people like it or not," manager Mike Matheny said.

St. Louis pitchers rank near the top of the league in ERA (3.14) and home runs allowed (12). With just 10 errors and a .988 fielding percentage, the Cardinals are also one of the NL's top defensive clubs.

Allen Craig may be able to spark the offense since he's 7 for 21 with six RBIs in his last five games, and is batting .359 with four homers and 18 RBIs in his last 22 in the series.

Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez, who went 2 for 5 on Thursday, is 9 for 24 (.375) with four homers and six RBIs in his last seven games.

Starling Marte is batting .436 during a nine-game road hitting streak.

The Pirates, who split two home games against the Cardinals earlier this month, have won five of seven at Busch Stadium.

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