ST. LOUIS -- A gritty effort by Lance Lynn was rewarded with gutsy baserunning from Ty Wigginton, whose aggressiveness on the basepaths helped lift the Cardinals past the Mets, 6-3, in front of 38,412 at Busch Stadium on Monday night.
In taking the first game of the four-game series, St. Louis has reeled off 10 wins in its last 12 games.
"The guys are feeling good about themselves right now, which is a nice feeling and something you want to ride out as long as you can," manager Mike Matheny said. "But we realize we have a long way to go. Slow and steady. I want them to keep pushing."
Pushing is precisely what Wigginton did to help will the Cardinals to a come-from-behind victory against a reeling New York club. A 3-3 game turned the Cardinals' way in the seventh, shortly after Lynn threw the last of his career-high 124 pitches.
He was pinch-hit for by Wigginton, whose 23 at-bats on the season were the fewest of any Cardinals position player, aside from backup catcher Tony Cruz. A day after keying a two-run inning with a single, Wigginton, a former Met, lifted a ball that went in and out of the glove of former Cardinal and first-day Met, Rick Ankiel.
Actually, it wasn't his glove. That, he said, was the problem.
"I don't want to make excuses. I do think if I have my glove, it stays in there," said Ankiel, who had to borrow Jon Niese's practice glove because his own glove did not arrive from Houston in time to be used. "But I'm the type of person that I feel like if I got a glove on it, I should have caught it."
As the ball scooted away, Wigginton alertly took second.
"The play was right in front of [me]," Wigginton said. "You just make your own read."
Matt Carpenter followed with a line drive that struck reliever Scott Rice and caromed toward the first-base line. Watching both Rice and catcher John Buck scamper after the ball, Wigginton never slowed as he rounded third.
"As I was breaking to third, I saw Buck going after the ball," Wigginton said. "I knew home plate was going to be open, so I took a chance."
The gamble paid off. Wigginton slid into home as the go-ahead run before Rice could retreat to the plate and make a tag.
"That was outstanding baserunning, heads-up awareness of knowing where the guys were," Carpenter said. "That was a big play for us."
"It happened so fast," added Rice. "As soon as I realized there wasn't a play at first, I looked up to see where the runners were and I saw the guy rounding third."
Matt Holliday provided a cushion to that one-run advantage when, two batters later, he drilled a Scott Atchison slider 425 feet into the stands in left-center for a 6-3 lead. It was Holliday's sixth home run of the year.
There was some redemption in the blast, too, as Holliday's inning-ending double play back in the second had squashed a bases-loaded rally.
"We had a lot of momentum right there, and I feel like I killed the momentum," Holliday said. "You hope to get another chance to do something."
The seventh-inning scoring made a winner of Lynn, who battled through seven innings in a game where there was bullpen activity before the right-hander had even finished five. He joins Washington's Jordan Zimmermann as the NL's only six-game winners and still has never lost back-to-back games in his career.
But the night didn't begin all that smoothly for Lynn or Mets starter Jeremy Hefner, both of whom endured a rocky first two innings.
Lynn walked four batters in those first two frames. Two scored on a second-inning, line-drive double by Daniel Murphy that right fielder Carlos Beltran lost in the sun. An infield single pushed home another run, giving the Mets an early 3-2 lead.
"I was throwing the ball where I wanted to, just missing off a little bit [off the plate]," Lynn said. "I couldn't get them to chase it early on. When you're walking five guys in the first few innings, it comes back to get you."
The Cardinals, who had scored on an RBI double by Allen Craig and sacrifice fly from Jon Jay in the first, rallied to even the game in the bottom of the second. Carpenter's RBI single drove home David Freese, who led off the inning with a single.
After a pair of innings in which the two starters combined to throw 99 pitches, the game then drastically turned course. Beginning with the final out of the second, Lynn retired 16 of the next 18 batters he faced. That included a stretch of 13 straight until Murphy's two out single in the seventh.
Lynn followed that hit by retiring David Wright to end the inning and his night. Lynn spread 70 of those pitches over his final five innings after throwing 54 in the first two.
"It was one of those things that as the game went on I felt better, better with where the pitches were going," Lynn said. "Early on, I physically felt good. But later on, I felt more in control of every pitch."
Similarly, Hefner improved as the night went on. He retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced before the bullpen let the game unravel upon his exit. Hefner was pulled after throwing 97 pitches in six innings.
Matheny, citing Lynn's durability, didn't hesitate to push his starter deeper than Mets manager Terry Collins did with his. Exactly a year after throwing a career-high 121 pitches, Lynn reached a pitch count last hit by a Cardinals starter in June 2011, when Chris Carpenter threw 132.
"We know from his history that he's a guy who can go deeper into his pitch count and shows that he stays strong," Matheny said. "He looked good there late once he did find his timing. He found a way."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.