Cardinals-Royals Preview

AP - Sports

With the top half of their order heating up, the St. Louis Cardinals are in position for their first three-game win streak in a month.

Having their top starting pitcher on the mound also could help them get it.

Lance Lynn, though, is coming off possibly his worst performance of the season as he tries to lift the visiting Cardinals to a sweep of the Kansas City Royals on Sunday.

Another big day from the offense could help Lynn bounce back and give St. Louis a 4-2 record in the I-70 series for the second straight season.

The Cardinals (37-35) headed to Kansas City averaging 2.8 runs per game in their four series prior to this one, but they've totaled 19 runs and 33 hits in the first two contests. They haven't won three in a row since a sweep of San Diego from May 21-23.

"We know this isn't the kind of offense you produce every night, but it gives you a lot of confidence," manager Mike Matheny said.

Leadoff man Rafael Furcal is 7 for 15 with five walks and five runs in four games following a 2-for-36 slump. Jon Jay returned for this series and has batted second, contributing three hits and three runs after missing a month with a sprained shoulder.

Cardinals No. 3 hitter Matt Holliday is batting .552 in his last seven games, including four against Kansas City in which he's gone 13 for 18 with eight RBIs. Cleanup man Carlos Beltran, batting .458 over his past 12 games, has four hits and five RBIs in his first series back in the city where his big-league career began.

"When you have a lineup like we have, just keep us in the game," said Adam Wainwright, the winning pitcher in Saturday's 8-2 victory.

Lynn (10-3, 2.80 ERA) fell one win behind the New York Mets' R.A. Dickey for the major league lead with a poor effort Tuesday. The right-hander gave up a season-high five runs in a 6-3 loss at Detroit, allowing nine hits in five innings.

"It wasn't how he's pitched all year, but young pitchers are going to have those days," Matheny told the team's official website.

Lynn has cooled off since allowing a combined six runs while winning his first six starts of the season, going 4-3 with a 3.94 ERA in his last eight outings.

His first start versus the Royals may be coming at a good time. Kansas City has totaled 10 runs over its last four games while going 3 for 20 with runners in scoring position.

"We're just not swinging well right now," manager Ned Yost said. "We're swinging more at pitchers' pitches."

The Royals (31-38) haven't suffered a three-game sweep at Kauffman Stadium since starting 0-10 there, but have averaged 2.8 runs in their last 12 home games.

That's bad news for Jonathan Sanchez (1-3, 5.70), making his third start after missing more than a month with biceps tendinitis.

He pitched a season-high six innings Monday but lost, allowing four runs in a 9-7 defeat at Houston. Wildness remains a big issue for Sanchez, who walked four and hit two batters and even had two errant pickoff throws. His 6.93 walks per nine innings would rank last in the majors if he had enough innings to qualify.

Sanchez, though, is 3-0 with a 2.78 ERA in five games against St. Louis.

Alcides Escobar has two hits in four of the last five games for the Royals, who had won seven of nine entering this series.

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