ST. LOUIS — Lance Lynn is still trying to figure out how to end his slump.
The St. Louis Cardinals right-hander, who gave up a first-inning grand slam to Pedro Alvarez in Saturday's 7-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, insists his recent woes are not fatigue-related.
Before Chris Carpenter was sidelined by a compressed nerve in his shoulder in spring training, Lynn had been targeted to work out of the bullpen.
"This is the best I've felt all year, and I'm not getting the job done," Lynn said. "I'm not worried about my health or innings or anything like that.
"I've just got to start getting people out again."
Lynn (10-4) was pummeled for the third straight start, allowing six runs in five innings. Since combining for 23 strikeouts in consecutive victories earlier this month, he's given up 17 runs and 25 hits in 15 1/3 innings.
Lynn's ERA has reached 3.62 during that stretch. He'll get one more start before the All-Star break and some down time.
In his previous start, Lynn gave up three homers and got a no-decision at Kansas City.
"You give up four runs on one swing, it's a tough day," Lynn said. "I just need to stop putting myself in those situations."
Lynn (10-4) held the Pirates scoreless the next three innings before giving up two more runs in the fifth. Manager Mike Matheny found a positive, saying the 25-year-old right-hander kept his composure.
"This start really was kind of defined by that first inning," Matheny said. "I don't think anybody thought that he was just going to keep rolling through this league.
"You're going to have your bumps, and it's how quick you adjust."
Andrew McCutchen had two hits before leaving with a sprained left wrist that left him day to day for the Pirates, who won their fourth in a row. Jeff Karstens (1-2) thrived in sweltering heat, allowing four hits with seven strikeouts in seven strong innings.
Pittsburgh matched its longest winning streak of the year. It was 99 degrees for the first pitch and the temperature spiked to 103 later in the game.
The Pirates are a season-best seven games above .500. If they complete a three-game sweep Sunday it'll mark the franchise's high water mark since the final game of their 96-66 NL East championship team in 1992. Erik Bedard (4-8, 4.27 ERA) opposes Jake Westbrook (6-6, 3.77).
Carlos Beltran drove in a run with his 400th career double off Tony Watson in the eighth for St. Louis, one night after getting his 2,000th career hit. Beltran has an eight-game RBI streak, longest in the majors this season, and leads the league with 61 RBIs.
Jared Hughes retired the last four batters in order for his first save as the Cardinals fell to 17-18 at home. They're 10-28 when the opposition scores first.
McCutchen, who leads the Pirates with a .346 average and 51 RBIs with 15 homers, was removed for a pinch hitter in the seventh, four innings after charging to make a diving catch on Beltran's sinking liner. McCutchen also banged into the center field wall in an unsuccessful bid to rob Tony Cruz of a double to start that inning.
X-rays were negative on McCutchen's wrist. Manager Clint Hurdle said McCutchen would probably get a day off Sunday.
Alvarez is 2 for 2 with 10 RBIs with the bases loaded, the other hit a three-run double to go with two sacrifice flies and a walk. He has 13 RBIs in five games in St. Louis and 15 total against the Cardinals, most of any opponent.
On Friday, Alvarez hit a two-run double in the fifth that tied the score in the Pirates' 14-5 romp.
"I guess he's a pretty good hitter," Matheny said. "He's taken advantage."
The Pirates homered an NL-leading 39 times in June to tie the franchise record set in 1975, and lead the league with 51 road homers.
Lynn got a pair of groundouts to open the game before running into trouble. McCutchen and Garrett Jones singled to put runners at the corners and Neil Walker walked before Alvarez swatted a full-count fastball into the right-field stands for his second career grand slam and 15th homer overall, tying McCutchen for the team lead.
Karstens totaled 17 innings in his first four starts of a season interrupted by a shoulder injury. He struggled only in the third when Cruz scored on Jon Jay's groundout and Matt Holliday added an RBI single to cut the deficit to 4-2.
The Pirates restored the two-run margin in the fifth on Walker's RBI double and a bases-loaded groundout by Clint Barmes.