By BRETT HUSTON
(AP) -- By his own admission, Lance Lynn didn't have his best stuff during his most recent start. He still earned a victory, though, to become the first major league pitcher with six.
Looking to help St. Louis avoid a sweep against the visiting Atlanta Braves, Lynn on Sunday afternoon tries to become the first Cardinals pitcher since at least 1920 to win his first seven starts of a season.
Lynn (6-0, 1.40 ERA) went at least 6 2-3 innings in four of his first five starts. He lasted a season-low five Monday at Arizona, but left with a 7-0 lead. The right-hander struck out seven and didn't allow a run before exiting with a pitch count of 91, and despite an adventurous sixth inning from the bullpen, St. Louis (20-13) went on to win 9-6.
"We're winning games while I'm on the mound," Lynn said. "That's all that matters. ... (Monday) was a struggle. You know you're not going to have your best stuff every time out. (Monday) I was able to battle through it."
Lynn became the first Cardinals starter since Bob Tewksbury in 1994 to win his first six starts, but the franchise hasn't had anyone since at least 1920 win his first seven in a season.
Making that happen Sunday won't be easy in what figures to be his toughest test yet. Four of Lynn's six starts have come against the Cubs and Pirates - both among baseball's five worst offenses - while Atlanta ranks fourth in the majors in runs per game (5.35), trailing only the Cardinals (5.55) in the NL.
The Braves (21-13) didn't have much trouble against St. Louis pitching in the series' first two games. After pounding out seven extra-base hits in Friday's 9-7, 12-inning win, Atlanta scored two in the first and didn't look back en route to a 7-2 victory Saturday.
The Braves have averaged 5.7 runs and 10.4 hits while winning 13 of 17 on the road.
"The way we're hitting the ball, if I can throw some zeroes up there we got a good chance to be out front and in control," Saturday's winning pitcher Brandon Beachy said.
The Braves improved to 15-0 when they score at least six runs, but offense hasn't been a strength when Tommy Hanson's been on the hill. Atlanta has provided Hanson (3-3, 3.63) with just 2.5 runs of average support, among the 15 worst figures in the majors.
Hanson held Chicago to a pair of solo homers over six innings Monday at Wrigley Field, but that proved to be too many in a 5-1 loss.
Hanson, who allowed two runs over seven innings in his only start against St. Louis on Sept. 11, 2010, seems to feel like he's on the right track.
"I'm getting more comfortable with all of my pitches," he told the Braves' official website. "So hopefully, I can keep on that path."
He's certainly had the number of St. Louis' hottest hitter. Carlos Beltran, who's 10 for 25 with five homers and 12 RBIs in his last six games overall, is 0 for 10 against Hanson.
Lynn has never faced the Braves, but if he wants to have a better shot at getting to 7-0, he'll likely need to keep Michael Bourn off the basepaths. Atlanta's speedy leadoff hitter is 6 for 12 with a homer so far in this series and is 18 for 37 (.486) with five walks in his last eight games at Busch Stadium.
Updated May 12, 2012