Cardinals-Diamondbacks Preview

The Associated Press

In a rotation filled with talented arms, Lance Lynn has stood out for the St. Louis Cardinals in the first month of the season.

Joe Saunders has fared pretty well for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Lynn looks to become the majors' first six-game winner when the Cardinals face Saunders and the Diamondbacks on Monday night at Chase Field.

After starting twice in 18 regular-season games in 2011, then pitching well out of the bullpen during the playoffs, Lynn (5-0, 1.60 ERA) has been one of baseball's biggest early surprises. He has a chance to become the first St. Louis pitcher since Bob Tewksbury in 1994 to win his first six starts of the season.

"It means we have five wins when I'm pitching, so that's good,'' said Lynn, who will turn 25 on Saturday. "That's all I'm trying to do is help us win when I'm out there. I'm off to a good start and the team's really been carrying me.''

The right-hander had allowed one run in each of his first four starts before he gave up two and three hits while striking out six in 6 2-3 innings of a 12-3 rout of Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

"He's mentally tough," manager Mike Matheny told the Cardinals' official website. "I think (he's) just following along what we've been preaching, and that is one pitch at a time."

This will be Lynn's first start versus Arizona. He allowed two hits in three scoreless innings of relief against the Diamondbacks last season.

Lynn, however, will not be the only pitcher Monday night in Phoenix who is enjoying a strong start.

After going 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA in 33 starts last season, Saunders (2-1, 1.24) has the second-lowest ERA among major league starters and has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his five starts. The left-hander gave up two earned and struck out six over 6 1-3 innings but closer J.J. Putz could not hold a one-run lead in Wednesday's 5-4 loss at Washington.

In his only previous appearance against the Cardinals on July 7, Saunders allowed a hit and walked four in five scoreless innings of a 4-1 victory at St. Louis.

Saunders and the Diamondbacks (14-15) return home after losing 3-1 at New York on Sunday to conclude a 5-5 trip.

Gerardo Parra had two of the four hits for Arizona, which went 3 for 28 with runners in scoring position while losing two of three to the Mets. The Diamondbacks are batting .221 in that department.

"What's the key for us to catch fire?'' manager Kirk Gibson said. "I guess that's for me to lay awake and figure out, isn't it?

The reigning NL West champions, who lost two of three at home to St. Louis in 2011, have dropped seven of nine overall at Chase Field.

The NL Central-leading Cardinals (17-11) snapped a season-high three-game skid with an 8-1 win at Houston on Sunday. Tyler Greene hit a career-high two homers and drove in four runs while Allen Craig added a two-run shot with three RBIs as St. Louis scored two more runs than it did while losing the first two of the set.

Craig is 6 for 16 with that home run and seven RBIs in four games since opening the season on the disabled list while recovering from knee surgery.

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