The series opener between the Blue Jays and Cardinals on Friday in Toronto will be marked by one pitcher looking to rebound and the other attempting to maintain success.
Cardinals starter Lance Lynn will be seeking to forget his last start, while Blue Jays rookie Marcus Stroman will attempt to build on his first Major League start in which he earned the win.
Lynn lasted just 3 1/3 innings in his last trip to the mound against the Giants, the second-shortest outing of his career. Stroman, meanwhile, allowed one run in six innings against the Royals after being recalled from Triple-A to make his first big league start.
Both starters left the mound with differing thoughts.
"It was a tough one," Lynn said afterward. "That's about it."
"It was pretty special," Stroman said.
Lynn's last outing came on the heels of one of the best of his career, when he tossed a shutout against the Yankees on May 27 while scattering five hits. He has quality starts in six of his 12 outings this season, but his last start was filled with hard-hit grounders that found holes and poor command as he walked a season-high four batters in allowing seven runs (four earned).
"You look at one of Lance's best games we've ever seen from him [against the Yankees], and then this happens," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said after the short outing vs. the Giants. "You're just going to have those days, but they're tough on the offense to keep trying to fight and get back into it."
Things won't get any easier for Lynn against Toronto, which has won 14 of its last 16 games while averaging 5.9 runs per game during that span.
Stroman benefited from that run support in a 12-2 victory against the Royals. He had made five appearances out of the Blue Jays' bullpen in early May before being demoted to Triple-A. There, he made seven starts, posting a 3.03 ERA in 35 2/3 innings.
The rookie right-hander, who was recalled to give starter Drew Hutchison a few extra days of rest, earned a second start with his debut as a starter.
"I thought he was terrific; he got a bunch of strikeouts, he was attacking the zone, working fast," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "All of the things you expect of him. That's what we're looking for. For guys to step up, give us some innings."
Cardinals: Carpenter's tear continues after streak ends
When third baseman Matt Carpenter's 14-game hitting streak reached an end Monday, he didn't wait long to start a new one.
Carpenter went 7-for-7 in his next seven at-bats while drawing three walks to reach base in his next 10 plate appearances. He has collected hits in 17 of 18 games since May 18, hitting .419 (31-for-74) with nine doubles during that span.
Carpenter, who hit .315 last season, has seen his batting average rise 50 points to .306 during the last 18 games as well. While he has attributed much of the success to balls falling, his manager has seen a stronger approach.
"I see him not trying to do too much. And it looks a lot like what we've seen the last couple seasons," Mike Matheny said. "He's seeing the ball better now, that's really the difference from what you saw early on."
Blue Jays: Encarnacion hopeful to return to lineup Friday
Edwin Encarnacion said Thursday his back is feeling better after he left Wednesday's 8-2 win over the Tigers with tightness, but he didn't play in the series finale.
Encarnacion is considered day to day. He was vague about the injury after Wednesday's game, and it's unclear if the back was bothering him before that, but he said Thursday it was tightening up more each inning.
Designated hitter Adam Lind was in the lineup playing first and batting fourth Thursday, and he's expected to pick up some time at first if Encarnacion remains out. Gibbons is hopeful Encarnacion will be available for Friday's series opener against the Cardinals.
"He's never had a history of back problems that I know of," Gibbons said. "It's smart to give him a day."
• The Blue Jays will be celebrating Rogers Centre's 25th Anniversary during the series opener Friday night. The ballpark, previously known as the SkyDome, was renamed in 2005.
• Toronto, which leads the Majors with 87 home runs this season, will be taking on a St. Louis club that ranks second-to-last in the Majors with 32. The Blue Jays have five batters with 10 or more homers.
Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.