Lance Lynn tosses seven strong innings as Cardinals roll past Pirates

ST. LOUIS -- After a seesaw season in 2012, St. Louis Cardinals starter Lance Lynn is on the upswing again.

Lynn pitched seven innings of one-run ball to earn his ninth straight decision in a 9-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night that gives him the longest active winning streak in the NL.

Lynn ended up 18-7 in 2012 and was selected to the All-Star Game. But he struggled after the break and was briefly demoted to the bullpen before working his way back into the rotation and beginning his streak on Sept. 9, 2012.

After losing several pounds in the offseason, Lynn has once again begun strong in 2013.

"I thought I had a pretty good season last year," Lynn said. "I was just trying to build off of that. That's where we're at; just trying to improve every time out. I'm doing that thus far."

Lynn (4-0) gave up just two hits while striking out nine and walking three in a game that saw Pirates starter Jonathan Sanchez, manager Clint Hurdle and hitting coach Jay Bell ejected.

Pedro Alvarez did manage to snap Lynn's scoreless streak at 14 2/3 innings with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.

Carlos Beltran supported Lynn by homering from both sides of the plate and driving in three runs despite suffering from the flu.

"I felt bad yesterday and today," Beltran said. "I remember last year I was very sick and I had a good game against the White Sox. I told them before the game, 'I feel like I'm going to have a good game; I feel sick.'"

Matt Carpenter and Beltran started the game with home runs for the Cardinals, who have won four straight and five of six. It was the first time the Cardinals went back-to-back to lead off a game since April 16, 2004, against Colorado.

Sanchez (0-3) lasted just two more batters. He and Hurdle were ejected after Sanchez hit Cardinals cleanup hitter Allen Craig up high with a pitch.

Home plate umpire Tim Timmons immediately ejected Sanchez, who had thrown just 17 pitches and did not retire a batter, after Craig was beaned. Hurdle came out to argue and he also was ejected.

"Timmons thought he was throwing at his head and we disagreed," Hurdle said. "You guys are going to have to figure out your own thoughts and speculate. I'm sure you already have. My comments will be made to the people that got an ear that need to hear.

"I have every belief he's trying to pitch inside hard. He missed his spots over the plate so he's trying to push a hitter back and he clips him. Tim didn't see it that way."

Definitely not.

"You got two home runs and then you got a line drive single up the middle," Timmons said to a pool reporter. "Then the very first pitch (to Craig) is up around the shoulder and head area. In that area, I deemed that intentional, and he's done. Very dangerous."

Jeanmar Gomez replaced Sanchez on the mound.

Bell was tossed in the fifth inning when he argued with Timmons after Pirates leadoff man Starling Marte was hit by Lynn for the second straight time.

The multi-homer game was the 35th for Beltran and his first since Sept. 30, 2012 against Washington, which is also the last time a Cardinal player homered from both sides of the plate in the same game.

"Every time you hit a homer and you do something positive to help the team win, it feels great," Beltran said. "Today I was able to do that twice.'

After Carpenter and Beltran gave the Cardinals a quick 2-0 lead, Craig gave the Cardinals a three-run cushion with an RBI single off Gomez with one out in the third. Carpenter walked to start the fifth, and Beltran followed with a long home run to right off Gomez while batting left-handed to make it 5-0.

Craig had a two-run single as part of a four-run eighth inning.

Game notes

Carpenter's leadoff homer was the first of his career and first by a Cardinal since Rafael Furcal did it on May 7, 2012, at Arizona. ... The Pirates Andrew McCutchen played in his 600th game Friday, and went 0-3 before leaving in the fifth as part of a double switch. ... Cardinals pitcher Jake Westbrook will seek his 100th career win when he opposes A.J. Burnett in the second game of the series Saturday. ... Sanchez saw his ERA balloon to 12.71