The last time Cardinals left-hander Tyler Lyons took the mound against the Cubs, Chicago's offense was humming. It was the second day of a three-game winning streak during which the Cubs totaled 18 runs in three days.
But Chicago had no answer against Lyons in a 6-5 win against St. Louis on May 2. The left-hander disposed of the heart of the Cubs' batting order with only nine pitches in one of his two relief appearances this season.
Now Chicago, who will start lefty Travis Wood, must reckon with Lyons as a starter, something the Braves struggled to handle Tuesday at Turner Field. Lyons surrendered only one run on four hits, walked one and struck out seven in six strong innings.
After walking four and hitting another in his first start and giving up four runs in his second, Lyons was happy to pitch as well as he did in his third.
"I was able to eliminate a few things that got me in trouble in those two games," Lyons said after his last start. "It's not necessarily that my stuff was any better today than it was at other times. I was just able to eliminate a few things that kept me out of trouble."
But no matter how well Lyons pitches, the Cardinals have struggled to give him much support. In three starts, St. Louis has tallied only two runs.
"It's a shame we haven't been able to score that guy any runs," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He's been throwing the ball very well, and today it was the best he's thrown. It was a great start."
St. Louis' struggles to back Lyons may work out for the Cubs, whose 12-5 win against the White Sox on May 8 looks more like an outlier each day. Chicago has scored only 13 runs in its other six games -- all losses -- during the past week.
The club has also struggled with situational hitting in recent days, finishing 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position in a three-game sweep at Turner Field in Atlanta over the weekend.
"We've got to do a better job understanding the situation and not getting ourselves where we're too excited. Kind of take the emotion out of it a little bit," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said following Sunday's loss to the Braves. "[Hitting coach Bill Mueller] and [assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley] actually talk to the players a lot about trying to take the emotion out of it, slow the game down, but it's still a process and I think obviously we haven't gotten where we need to be."
Cubs: Rizzo raking in May
• Anthony Rizzo finished 1-for-3 on Sunday to raise his on-base percentage to .401, which ranks among the top 10 in the National League. He also walked once, making him one of nine players with 100 bases on balls since the start of 2013.
Rizzo continued a torrid stretch that began on April 30. He is batting .308 (12-for-39) with four homers and 10 walks in his past 11 games.
His .401 on-base percentage far outpaces his .363 mark through 36 games last season. Rizzo is far from the only Cub walking. Chicago has drawn 112 walks through 36 games, which exceeds the 88 it had at this point last season.
Cardinals: Cubs could be cure for slumping Molina
• St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina, who notched two hits Sunday night, finds himself in 2-for-20 rut and should be happy to see Chicago. In six games against the Cubs this season, Molina is batting .360 (9-for-25) with two doubles and four RBIs.
Molina, who is batting .303 (135-for-445) in his career against the Cubs, has an 11-game hitting streak against them, a stretch that includes eight multihit games. He is batting .457 (21-for-46) in his current tear against them.
• Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney has three hits in his past five at-bats after starting the season hitting .115 (6-for-52).
• The Cubs have a losing record against every team they have played this season except the Cardinals (3-3) and the D-backs (2-2).
• Molina (12-for-30, three homers) and Jon Jay (10-for-25) both have a .400 career batting average against Wood. Allen Craig boasts a .320 (8-for-25) clip, and Matt Holliday has hit .276 (8-for-29) with two homers against the southpaw.
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.