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Sir Lance-a-Lot: McCullers perfect in debut

MLB.com

JUPITER, Fla. -- Making his first appearance since last August, starter Lance McCullers Jr. retired all six batters he faced to help the Astros to a 3-0 victory over the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium on Thursday.

McCullers started Spring Training on a modified throwing program as he finished his recovery from an elbow strain that had ended his 2016 season prematurely. He looked more than ready for this next test, breezing through two innings on 24 pitches (16 strikes) while striking out three.

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Making his first appearance since last August, starter Lance McCullers Jr. retired all six batters he faced to help the Astros to a 3-0 victory over the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium on Thursday.

McCullers started Spring Training on a modified throwing program as he finished his recovery from an elbow strain that had ended his 2016 season prematurely. He looked more than ready for this next test, breezing through two innings on 24 pitches (16 strikes) while striking out three.

View Full Game Coverage

Houston inched ahead early behind consecutive doubles by Teoscar Hernandez and Colin Moran in the third inning. The run came off Cardinals starter Lance Lynn, who threw 55 pitches (42 strikes) over three innings. He allowed only those two hits and struck out three.

Video: HOU@STL: Moran plates Hernandez with double to right

"Not there yet, but again, you have three to four more outings, so I'm not really worried about it," Lynn said afterward. "The ball is coming out good. Good command in the strike zone. You'd like to have some more quality strikes, but other than that, everything felt good."

Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter (back tightness) made his first start since March 1. Though he wasn't cleared to swing the bat, Carpenter did lay down a bunt single to foil the Astros' shift.

Video: HOU@STL: Carpenter reaches first on perfect bunt

Both teams' bullpen shut things down until the eighth inning, when the Astros tacked on two additional runs off Jordan Schafer. Austin Gomber tossed three hitless innings for the Cardinals, striking out three. He allowed one walk. For Houston, David Paulino had his strongest outing of the spring, allowing just two hits over three scoreless innings. He struck out two.

Hoyt looks to be major relief weapon for Astros

Video: HOU@STL: Brignac's bases-loaded walk plates Davis

Astros Up Next: Joe Musgrove will make his third start of the spring when the Astros face the Mets at 12:10 p.m. CT Friday in Port St. Lucie. Former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow is expected to be in the lineup for the Mets.

Cardinals Up Next: The Cardinals will head to The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Friday to face the Nationals in a 12:05 p.m. CT game. Mike Leake will make his third spring start for the Cardinals, who are 3-0-1 against Washington in Grapefruit League play.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.