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Lynn strikes out seven in eight innings

CHICAGO -- The Cardinals had been here before.

Fresh off consecutive walk-off losses, St. Louis led the Cubs by one in the sixth inning Wednesday after right fielder Carlos Beltran's go-ahead double off Cubs starter Chris Volstad.

Cardinals third baseman David Freese made sure another close game wouldn't be played, following Beltran's knock with a two-run home run and later adding an RBI double to send St. Louis to a 5-1 win over the Cubs.

Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn earned the win while continuing his impressive start to 2012 with eight strong innings, allowing one run on six hits while striking out seven.

"It was good to see a good offensive day and guys put some things together," manager Mike Matheny said. "Big day for David, Shane [Robinson] had a nice day and, obviously, what Lance was able to do sets the tone for everything."

The eight innings Lynn threw were the most of his career and the longest outing by a Cardinals starter this season. The right-hander was strong until the end, retiring his last 11 batters and recording 15 of 24 outs on ground balls.

"It's a good thing to get a lot of ground balls, especially with the balls they hit in the air they put some good swings on and were able to get some extra-base hits," Lynn said. "It was good to get some ground balls and get some easy outs."

Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair led off the fourth against Lynn with his second game-tying homer in as many days, but that was all the Cubs could muster.

The only other time Lynn faced adversity was in the fifth inning after a leadoff double by Darwin Barney, who advanced to third on a groundout. The Cardinals' right-hander walked David DeJesus to put runners on the corners, but struck out Tony Campana and got Starlin Castro to ground out.

"He has a heavy fastball and was able to pitch in and out with it and made the pitches when he had to," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We had a chance there and he made some good pitches and struck Campana out, and that was a big one because we could've taken the lead there and changed things around. He's done a great job up to this point."

"Whenever he did get in a little bit of trouble ... he just made better pitches," Matheny said. "The leadoff double could've turned into much more and he ended up really only getting hurt with the one fly ball, which really wasn't a bad pitch, either. All in all, he really stayed locked in mentally."

Lynn, who came into Spring Training prepared to be a reliever and moved into the rotation after an injury to Chris Carpenter, remained unbeaten at 4-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.33.

"He did great," Beltran said. "He's been pitching great for us. Throwing pitches for strikes, getting ahead of hitters. And when you're capable of doing that, then you have other pitches to play around."

The Cardinals' bullpen -- which surrendered walk-off hits the previous two days -- pitched a scoreless ninth to preserve Lynn's victory and help St. Louis avoid what would have been its first series sweep of the season.

Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal led off the sixth inning with a single and advanced to second on a groundout. After outfielder Matt Holliday flew out, Beltran lined his tiebreaking double.

Beltran's knock broke a string of 18 hitless at-bats, the second-longest skid of his career. Beltran's only longer slump came from May 8-14, 2000, when he went 22 at-bats without a hit while with Kansas City.

"In this game you're going to go through a lot of ups and downs," said Beltran, who also stole two bases. "The main thing is you have to stay positive and continue working and things are going to change. I was happy that we won there, we were able to win this one and have a day off tomorrow."

Freese followed Beltran's double with his fourth home run to give the Cardinals a sizable cushion.

"[Volstad] got the sinker in on Freese all day long and tried to come in and left it out over the plate and that was a back breaker in that inning," Sveum said. "He got the ball up to Beltran, but the back breaker was the home run Freese hit."

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