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Lyons steps up big-time to shut down Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- Before Game 2 of Wednesday's doubleheader, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak had a gut feeling. All season long the Cardinals have been defined by the success of their "next man up" mentality. When one player went down, someone else stepped up.

So perhaps it was fitting that left-hander Tyler Lyons, starting in place of the injured Carlos Martinez, led St. Louis to its National League Central-clinching victory. Lyons fired seven scoreless innings in his longest start since 2013, and set the tone as the Cards rolled to an 11-1 win over the Pirates at PNC Park.

"He was great. Frankly, I thought it might happen, because that's how it's worked all year," Mozeliak said. "The moment you need someone to step up and do something, they do it."

Lyons shut down the Pirates, who had put up eight runs a few hours earlier in the first half of Wednesday's day-night twin bill. He gave up only four hits, didn't walk anyone and struck out five.

"Off the charts. Couldn't be any more proud of what he was able to do," manager Mike Matheny said. "He just kept going. I just kept firing him out there. Why wouldn't you? ... He had everything working today. It was a great display of what he can do."

Martinez had been scheduled to start but was shut down for the season on Saturday with a strained right shoulder. So the assignment fell to Lyons, who hadn't thrown more than 46 pitches in a game since Sept. 2.

Lyons made a convincing argument that he deserves a spot on the postseason roster.

"We needed somebody to come up big today, and it was Tyler Lyons," Matheny said. "Had to have that kind of start from Tyler, and he was terrific."

Lyons faced the minimum 18 hitters through six innings, efficiently and aggressively going after Pittsburgh's lineup after being spotted a six-run lead in the first three innings. He took advantage of that edge by pounding the strike zone, getting ahead of hitters with his fastball, then mixing in sliders and changeups.

"You have a lead and you don't want to beat yourself. That was the kind of mind-set I took into that," Lyons said. "I felt good going into the game. I just wanted to attack and challenge them."

The Cardinals only needed to beat the Pirates once on Wednesday to keep the division race from dragging into the weekend. Thanks to Lyons, the latest "next man up," they were able to celebrate.

"Just another example of a guy stepping up. Sometimes you don't expect who it's going to be," third baseman Matt Carpenter said. "It's someone different every night. What Tyler was able to do tonight was huge."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.
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