ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jordan Lyles had to change his plan on the fly.
Lyles overcame a 30-pitch first inning to combine with four relievers on a two-hitter, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 Saturday for their seventh win in 10 games following an eight-game losing streak.
Lyles (3-1) allowed one hit through six innings, struck out six and walked three, lowering his ERA to 2.09, fifth-best in the NL.
With the Cardinals lying off of his curveball, the 28-year-old right-hander relied more on secondary pitches. He said he threw more sliders than he had in previous games this season.
“I’ve made strides in making that pitch better, which allows my other pitches to play up a little better alongside with throwing more elevated fastballs and occasional sinkers,” Lyles said.
He battled through the first after a rain delay of 2 hours, 56 minutes, at the start. He struck out Matt Carpenter in a 10-pitch at-bat leading off, walked Paul Goldschmidt on a full count, retired Paul DeJong on a lineout that ended a seven-pitch at-bat, then struck out Marcell Ozuna in another seven-pitch at-bat.
“It’s not the way you draw it up coming out of the blocks, but he was steadfast in his approach, his conviction with pitches and stayed in the hunt,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Lyles was removed after 101 pitches. He had been 0-1 with a pair of no-decisions since beating San Francisco on April 19.
“We were able to bounce back after the second, a couple of one, two, three innings,” Lyles said. “It wasn’t ideal to start the game off, but we bounced back in a decent way.”
St. Louis’ only hit off Lyles was an RBI double by DeJong in the third that glanced off the glove of right fielder Gregory Polanco as he jumped into the wall.
“I think there comes a point in time in a guy’s career where they figure out who they are, they like who they are and they go out and pitch like who they are,” Hurdle said. “I think Lyles got to that point last season.”
Richard Rodríguez and Francisco Liriano combined on a perfect seventh, and Kyle Crick gave up a single to Goldschmidt around a pair of walks in the eighth, then escaped the bases-loaded jam by retiring Ozuna on a groundout. Felipe Vázquez pitched a perfect ninth for his 12th save in 12 chances.
After scoring 17 runs in the series opener, the Cardinals were held to one for the second straight day.
Polanco had an RBI triple in the fourth and scored on a single by Josh Bell, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas (4-3) gave up three hits — all in a row — and struck out a season-high seven in seven innings. St. Louis has lost two in a row to the Pirates after winning its first three games against Pittsburgh this season.
“I think everyone’s been trending in the right direction,” Mikolas said. “Baseball cliche, sometimes the pitchers will pick up the slack. Sometimes the hitters will do that. Once we start clicking on all cylinders and doing everything right at the right time we’ll be a very scary baseball club.”
Pittsburgh’s Jung Ho Kang pinch hit in the eighth and struck out, extending his hitless streak to 23 at-bats since April 26 and dropping his batting average to .133.
DeJong was reached safely in all 22 home games for the Cardinals this season, getting hits in 20 of them.
Cardinals 2B Kolten Wong made a sliding basket catch in short centerfield with his back to the plate to rob Bryan Reynolds of a hit leading off the seventh.
A CALL TO ARMS
Pittsburgh acquired 28-year-old right-hander Chris Stratton from the Los Angeles Angels for cash on Saturday. Stratton went 0-2 with an 8.59 ERA in five starts and two relief appearances for the Angels, then was designated for assignment on May 7.
Pirates: RHP Nick Burdi (right biceps/elbow pain) was moved to the 60-day IL to make room for Stratton on the 40-man roster.
Cardinals: RHP Carlos Martínez (right shoulder cuff strain) is to make his third appearance for Triple-A Memphis on Sunday. He pitched a scoreless inning with two strikeouts and a hit on Friday night.
LHP Steven Brault (0-1, 7.11 ERA) is scheduled to make his second start of the season for the Pirates against the Cardinals and RHP Dakota Hudson (2-2, 4.63 ERA) in the finale of the four-game series on Sunday. Brault made his major league debut against the Cardinals in 2016 and is 0-1 with a 3.43 ERA in eight appearances against them. Hudson allowed a career high eight runs, though only two were earned, over five innings in a loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday.