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STL@MIL: Lynn strikes out eight in win over Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- Lance Lynn didn't take the Miller Park mound on Sunday entirely unknown. His reputation leading up to his season debut, however, had been formed through little of his own doing.

He's remembered by some for being the guy caught in the middle of the Cardinals' bullpen phone fiasco during the 2011 World Series. Others know him simply as the one called upon to indefinitely replace Chris Carpenter in the team's 2012 rotation.

On Sunday, Lynn asserted himself as much more.

In just his third Major League start, Lynn struck out eight over 6 2/3 innings in the Cardinals' 9-3 win over Milwaukee. The victory, which came in front of an announced attendance of 33,211, sent St. Louis on to Cincinnati with a win in their first series against the Brewers.

"Most people haven't heard that much about him," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think that's going to change."

The Cardinals never viewed Lynn only as a placeholder for the injured Carpenter. Before Matheny even took the job as manager, he recognized Lynn as part of the organization's starting pitching depth.

Lynn, 24, was destined to pitch out of the bullpen this season only because the Cardinals already had a veteran rotation of five. The move from Minor League starter to Major League reliever was never to be taken as an indictment on Lynn's ability. And when Carpenter went down last month, the Cardinals never hesitated in their decision to turn to Lynn first.

Lynn rose to the call with a seamless reliever-to-starter transition in Spring Training. And he carried that over by stifling a Brewers offense that had pounded out 18 hits in the first two games of this series.

"Hopefully it gives us confidence that with Carp out that we can still win ballgames and that they have confidence in me," Lynn said. "I see this as a new challenge."

Relying heavily on a mix of fastballs and curves, while also incorporating his newfound cutter and changeup, Lynn kept the Brewers' offense off balance and guessing all afternoon. Five of Lynn's strikeouts were swinging, and he induced 11 swing and misses in his 100-pitch effort. His final pitch registered 95 mph on the radar gun, as did several before it.

That made Lynn, who was preparing to pitch as a reliever as recently as a month ago, the first Cardinals pitcher to surpass the 90-pitch mark this year.

"I was surprised that somebody could transition from the bullpen to a starter and maintain his stuff," Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun said. "His velocity was consistently in the mid-90s. He has really good command of his fastball to both sides of the plate, and last year he didn't throw much of his slider/cutter pitch, whatever he was throwing today. I was impressed."

Lynn left the game with two outs in the seventh after walking Aramis Ramirez on the 10th pitch of his at-bat. That was one of only three baserunners the right-hander allowed. He erased Braun, who singled in the first, with a pick off. In the fifth, Corey Hart launched a homer into the left-center field seats to put Milwaukee on the scoreboard.

"I made a mistake pitch to a guy who is swinging the bat really well right now," Lynn said. "That will wake you up and get you right back to where you need to be."

He got back on track by striking out the next four batters. That was the start of seven straight that Lynn retired before walking Ramirez. Had it not been for a closely monitored pitch count, Lynn likely would have gotten a chance to try and close out the seventh.

Instead, Mitchell Boggs replaced him on the mound and ended the frame by striking out Hart, who hit three home runs in the series.

"We all understand the importance of Chris Carpenter and how badly we want him to get right," Matheny said. "But when the game deals you what it deals you, you hope somebody steps up. And to see [Lynn] step up is gratifying to those guys in [the clubhouse]."

By the time Lynn exited, the Cardinals had already built a 5-1 lead with a lineup that included four players making their first starts of the season.

Matt Holliday drove Rafael Furcal home from first base on a one-out double in his first at-bat. Three consecutive two-out singles by Shane Robinson, Lynn and Furcal pushed across the second run. For Lynn, the single was his first career hit.

"Lucky," he called it afterward.

David Freese tagged Brewers starter Randy Wolf with an RBI single in the fifth. Two innings later, Carlos Beltran drilled a two-run homer -- his second home run of the year -- to pad the Cardinals' lead. A two-out RBI hit by Tyler Greene in the eighth and a three-run homer for Robinson in the ninth capped a six-run outburst against Milwaukee's bullpen.

"They have a good, balanced lineup, they really do," Wolf said. "I'm not saying they are, but I really hope they're peaking now, because they look really good."

Beltran and Furcal each had three hits for the Cardinals, who tallied 14. They have collected at least 13 hits in each of their three wins. Robinson also finished with three hits, all with two outs. Among them was his first career home run. He bartered with a fan afterward in order to ensure he'd be leaving Miller Park with the ball.

After splitting the 18-game season series last season, the Brewers and Cardinals are set to meet again in less than three weeks.

"I feel like there's a reason they won the World Series and they have a great team again," Braun said. "Certainly, they're going to be in it all year. We have the same expectation."

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