ST. LOUIS — Lance Lynn's strong September earned him a start in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Friday.
But Lynn regressed to his ineffective form of August and the St. Louis Cardinals paid dearly in a 7-1 loss to Pittsburgh before a sellout crowd of 45,999 at Busch Stadium.
Lynn allowed five runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings and was outdueled by rookie Gerrit Cole as the Pirates evened the best-of-five series at one game apiece.
"I made four bad pitches, (resulting in) four extra-base hits. That's what got me today," said Lynn, who was 1-4 with a 5.84 ERA in August and 2-1 with a 2.12 ERA in September. "If I make a couple of better pitches here and there, it might be a different ballgame. ... When I made a mistake with the fastball, they were ready for it."
Cole, a right-hander whose fastball was in the upper-90s, quieted the Cardinals' bats, permitting just one run on two hits in six innings. Yadier Molina's fifth-inning homer was St. Louis' only run.
"He was tough," Molina said of Cole, who walked one and struck out five. "Any guy who throws 95-plus is a tough guy. He mixed in a slider with his fastball and was locating that pitch well, too.
"We knew this was going to be a battle. They showed us that they never quit. So it goes. It's going to be a good series. We knew they had a good team and they beat us today. We have to come ready to go in Game 3."
Game 3 will be at 3:37 p.m. Sunday at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Joe Kelly will pitch for the Cardinals against Francisco Liriano.
Cole, the Pirates' No. 1 draft pick in 2011, said he tried to pitch like he did in the regular season when he was 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA.
"I just tried to stick to my game plan and do what I've been doing the last month --moving the fastball around and mixing in some off-speed pitches," he said. "Nothing too crazy."
Cole's RBI single in the second followed an intentional walk to eighth-place hitter Jordy Mercer and made it 1-0. Pedro Alvarez's two-run homer in the third put Pittsburgh on top 3-0. Alvarez has homered in each of the first two games of the series.
The Pirates added two more runs against Lynn in the fifth on a ground-rule double by Marlon Byrd and an RBI single by Russell Martin that greeted reliever Seth Maness.
Pittsburgh sealed the outcome with a run in the seventh against Kevin Siegrist and another in the eighth against Shelby Miller.
Defensive shortcomings contributed to the Cardinals' demise. Center fielder Jon Jay took a sideways route to Alvarez's one-out double in the second, and by the time he recovered and moved back, it was too late. Alvarez then scored on Cole's two-out hit.
"I should have made that catch. I just didn't," said Jay of a play that provided early evidence of how well the ball was carrying. "I saw it. That's a play I've got to make and I didn't."
Molina failed to catch a foul popup by Martin in the second, although Martin struck out moments later.
In the seventh, third baseman David Freese dropped Byrd's popup. Byrd reached second on the play and scored one out later on Martin's sacrifice fly. Later in the inning, Freese failed to come up with Mercer's hard grounder that was ruled a hit.
"We've taken a lot of pride in playing good, clean, solid defense," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "When you get teams at this time of year, you've got to have all components of your game together. You start giving extra runners ... start giving extra outs, it's going to catch up with you."
Molina's 408-foot homer landed in the bleachers in right-center --his first home run to the opposite field this year.
Alvarez's homer to dead-center traveled 418 feet; Marte's bases-empty blast against Miller in the eighth went several rows into the left-center bleachers, 413 feet from the plate.
Alvarez has peppered Cardinals pitching the last two regular seasons, hitting nine homers with 34 RBIs. Alvarez had seven homers and 20 RBIs with Cole on the mound this season.
"I must really like him or something," Alvarez said. "No, just a coincidence. That's about it."
Molina seems to be running out of strategies to offer Cardinals pitchers working against Alvarez.
"He hit, how many home runs? Thirty-six, with 100 RBIs?" Molina said. "That guy's a good hitter. You have to try to do something different every at-bat. He took very good at-bats today and made strong contact."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.