ST. LOUIS — Just when it seemed the St. Louis Cardinals' offense was about to break out, disappointment paid another visit.
The Cardinals were kept off the scoreboard in the third inning Saturday, and Pittsburgh piled on with four runs in the fourth on its way to a 6-1 victory before 46,254 at Busch Stadium.
After sailing through the first nine Pirates hitters, left-hander Tyler Lyons coaxed a walk from Francisco Liriano to start the third. Liriano went to 3-0 against Matt Carpenter, then left the game with dizziness and flu-like symptoms.
Stolmy Pimentel, after requiring several minutes to warm up, completed the walk to Carpenter to put runners at first and second. Pimentel got Jhonny Peralta on a fly to center and struck out Matt Holliday. After allowing an infield hit to Matt Adams, Pimentel escaped, ending the threat by striking out Yadier Molina on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded.
A few minutes later, Pittsburgh surged ahead against an out-of-sorts Lyons on a two-run double by Gaby Sanchez and RBI singles by Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata.
"The one inning obviously changes the whole day," said Lyons (0-2), who was perfect in his five other innings. "With the exception of that one inning, everything went pretty well. But the one inning, that's a killer."
Lyons' rhythm couldn't have been helped as he stood on the bases for about 25 minutes in the third.
"It's all the same," Lyons said, downplaying the situation. "It's not really anything you do too often, but it's not a big deal. We wish we would have scored there, but it is what it is.
"It's not ideal having that much time in between innings and being out on the bases. It's not an excuse. You go back and you walk the leadoff hitter. That's kind of what starts something like that."
Lyons walked Starling Marte to open the fourth, and Josh Harrison's single sent Marte to third. McCutchen's single to left made it 1-0, and Sanchez followed with a two-run double to right-center to make it 3-0.
Neil Walker grounded out to second against a tightened infield, keeping Sanchez at third. Sanchez had advanced to third on the throw to the plate to try to get McCutchen. Tabata, however, grounded a single to left to plate Sanchez and give the Pirates their four-run lead.
"A long (third) inning and Tyler has a rough way to go in the fourth," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Besides that, he had a pretty good outing if it wasn't for that fourth inning."
Matheny seemed convinced that Lyons was negatively impacted by the delay involved with getting Pimentel ready to pitch.
"It's impossible to really point your finger on exactly what it is," he said. "It could be (that), but I know up to that point he was extremely sharp. Overall, he had good stuff. He got into trouble with the wrong part of the lineup."
Liriano entered the game with a 4-1 record and 1.95 ERA in five career starts against the Cardinals, so they weren't sorry to see him depart. After all, scoring runs against any type of pitcher has been an issue for St. Louis in the opening weeks of the season.
"You see Liriano leave the game and all of a sudden we've got guys all over the bases and it looks like this might be our spot," Matheny said. "It doesn't happen, but once again those big hits in big situations aren't easy to come by. We made it look easy, I think, last year, and I think our guys grew to expect it to happen. I think they still do.
"We're sitting there in that situation believing that everything is going to turn around right there. I think that's going to have to continue to happen. We're going to have to believe it before we even see it."
Lyons, in the rotation for the injured Joe Kelly, walked one and struck out four, retiring the final eight hitters he faced.
"I felt fine," Lyons said. "I kind of slowed things down again and was able to make some pitches, get some outs. That's what you've got to do after a bad inning."
Matt Holliday had an RBI double against Pimentel (2-0) in the fifth for the Cardinals' lone run. St. Louis failed to add more despite having runners at second and third with one out. The Pirates added ninth-inning insurance on Tony Sanchez's two-run single against Eric Fornataro.
"Frustration is part of the game," Cardinals right fielder Allen Craig said. "Everybody's been there. It is what it is. We're going to continue to work hard and it's going to be all right.
"We're 20-something games into the season. There's a lot of games left. That's the thing about it."