Lance Lynn was a prolific winner, a strikeout artist and a durable starter for the Cardinals, but, for all his attributes, the feat he struggled most to accomplish was pitching a complete-game shutout.

Before becoming a free agent and signing with the Twins on March 12, 2018, Lynn posted a regular-season career record of 72-47 (a .605 winning percentage) for the Cardinals, struck out 919 batters in 977.2 innings and pitched 175 innings or more in each of his last five active seasons with the club.

Though he made 161 regular-season starts for St. Louis, Lynn pitched only one complete-game shutout. That occurred on May 27, 2014, against the Yankees at St. Louis.

Sink or swim

Lynn, a right-hander who reached the major leagues with the Cardinals in 2011, won Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, became a full-fledged member of the starting rotation the following season and posted records of 18-7 in 2012 and 15-10 in 2013.

In 2014, he took a 5-2 record into his start against the Yankees at Busch Stadium.

Facing the Yankees for the only time in his big-league career, Lynn got them to hit into 15 groundouts. “They were caught off guard by the sinker and didn’t expect me to use it as much as you can,” Lynn said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I elevated later in the game to get fly balls when I needed it.”

The Yankees got five hits and three walks, but were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. “We squared some balls up,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said to Newsday. “We had some chances to score a few runs.”

Cardinals hitters supported Lynn with four runs in the third and a run each in the fifth and seventh. Allen Craig and Matt Holliday each hit a solo home run.

Elusive goal

Lynn threw 116 pitches in eight innings. Manager Mike Matheny usually would relieve a pitcher at that point, but, knowing how much Lynn wanted a chance at a shutout, Matheny and Lynn reached a compromise. Matheny let Lynn start the ninth, but told him he would be lifted if a batter reached base.

Lynn retired the Yankees in order on 10 pitches, getting Yangervis Solarte and Alfonso Soriano to ground out and Brian Roberts to fly out. Boxscore

“Since my first day in the major leagues, that’s your goal, always to throw a complete-game shutout,” Lynn said. “Every time you go out there, that’s your goal _ not give up any runs and finish it. Took me way too long.”

Matheny told The Sports Xchange, “Everyone on the bench knew how much this meant to him. You could tell how long and hard he’d worked to make this happen. You could see the reaction of his teammates.”

The Cardinals in 2018 will open a season in March for the fifth time. The March 29 game against the Mets at New York will be the earliest date for a Cardinals regular-season opener.

The Cardinals won three of their four Opening Day games played in March. Here is a look at each:

March 31, 1998

Todd Stottlemyre pitched seven scoreless innings and Mark McGwire hit a grand slam in the fifth, carrying the Cardinals to a 6-0 victory over the Dodgers at St. Louis.

Stottlemyre limited the Dodgers to three hits, including two by rookie first baseman Paul Konerko. “I was trying to stay away from all the nervousness and the other things that go into Opening Day,” Stottlemyre told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “… Your gut is going all different directions.”

McGwire’s home run was the first grand slam hit by a Cardinals player in an Opening Day game. He connected on a changeup from Ramon Martinez, breaking a scoreless tie. “I was juiced up,” McGwire said. “I don’t know my own strength. I hope I don’t hurt anybody.”

Gary Gaetti and Willie McGee each produced a RBI-single in the eighth.

Braden Looper, making his major-league debut for the Cardinals, pitched the ninth and struck out Todd Zeile, Raul Mondesi and Konerko. “It’s amazing to see the command of his pitches,” McGwire said of Looper. “He basically doesn’t throw anything over the belt.” Boxscore

March 31, 2003

Scott Rolen hit a three-run home run, capping a six-run eighth inning, and the Cardinals held on for an 11-9 triumph over the Brewers at St. Louis.

Trailing 7-5 in the eighth, the Cardinals got a RBI-triple from Orlando Palmeiro and a RBI-double from Fernando Vina, tying the score. Kerry Robinson put the Cardinals ahead, 8-7, with a bunt single that scored Vina from third. After Robinson swiped second and Albert Pujols was walked intentionally, Rolen, playing in his first Cardinals season opener, hit a home run against Mike DeJean, giving the Cardinals an 11-7 lead.

The Cardinals needed the cushion Rolen provided. In the ninth, Richie Sexson hit a two-run home run against Cal Eldred. After Keith Ginter singled with one out, Steve Kline relieved and retired Jeffrey Hammonds and Wes Helms, sealing the win for St. Louis. Boxscore

“That was an ugly game,” Rolen said. “That’s not a game that you’re going to come out on top all the time.”

March 31, 2011

Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin blew a ninth-inning save opportunity and the Padres went on to win, 5-3, in 11 innings at St. Louis. It was the Cardinals’ first extra-inning opener since 1992.

Matt Holliday hit a home run in the eighth against Mike Adams, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. Manager Tony La Russa brought in Franklin to pitch the ninth. Franklin retired the first two batters, Ryan Ludwick and Chase Headley, but Cameron Maybin swung at Franklin’s first pitch to him, a curveball, and launched it over the wall for a home run, tying the score.

Franklin described his pitch to Maybin as “a good, first-pitch strike.”

Said Maybin: “I got a pitch I recognized early out of his hand. If it’s in my zone, I’m going to attack it.”

In the 11th, Bryan Augenstein, making his Cardinals debut, gave up two runs after retiring the first two batters. The Cardinals were retired in order by Heath Bell in the bottom half of the inning.

“It was 11 innings of baseball that seemed like 111,” wrote columnist Bernie Miklasz. Boxscore

March 31, 2014

Adam Wainwright pitched seven shutout innings, the bullpen escaped an eighth-inning jam and Yadier Molina delivered the lone run, a home run against Johnny Cueto, lifting the Cardinals to a 1-0 victory over the Reds at Cincinnati.

Wainwright held the Reds to three hits, struck out nine and earned the first Opening Day win of his career. “I’ve never had this much fun pitching,” he said. “I’ve never felt as good about where I’m at.”

Molina hit a cutter from Cueto over the left field wall in the seventh inning. He also made several stellar defensive plays and clicked with Wainwright on calling pitches. “We were on the same page from the very first pitch of the game,” Wainwright said. “… I really think he’s the best I’ve ever seen at that position.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer declared, “Yadier Molina is Public Enemy No. 1 in Cincinnati and the Cardinals’ all-star catcher further endeared himself to Reds fans by ruining their 2014 Opening Day.”

In the eighth, after Wainwright departed, the Reds put runners on first and third, with no one out, but Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez kept the Reds from scoring. Trevor Rosenthal pitched a perfect ninth, marking the first time the Reds had been shut out on Opening Day since 1953 against the Braves. Boxscore

Rogers Hornsby brought out the best in the baseball talents of Les Bell, and soon after Hornsby departed the Cardinals, Bell did, too.

Ninety years ago, on March 20, 1928, the Cardinals and Braves swapped third basemen, with Bell going to the Braves for Andy High and cash.

The deal reunited Bell with Hornsby. The two were Cardinals teammates from 1923 to 1926. When Hornsby, the second baseman, became player-manager in May 1925, Bell blossomed, developing into a premier run producer. “His effect on Bell was almost instantaneous,” International News Service reported. “From a very commonplace third baseman, he became a ranking star in 1926.”

In 1926, when Hornsby led the Cardinals to their first National League pennant and a World Series title, Bell batted .325 with 33 doubles, 14 triples, 17 home runs and 100 RBI in 155 games.

After Hornsby was traded by the Cardinals to the Giants in December 1926, Bell fell into a funk. Without his mentor, Bell slumped in 1927, batting .259 with nine home runs and 65 RBI in 115 games for the Cardinals. He also committed 24 errors in 100 games at third base.

Let’s make a deal

After the 1927 season, the Cardinals demoted player-manager Bob O’Farrell, promoted a coach, Bill McKechnie, to replace him, and the Giants traded Hornsby to the Braves.

Determined to impress McKechnie, Bell reported a week early to the Cardinals’ 1928 spring training camp in Florida. Bell hit well but fielded poorly. “Ground balls were getting by him and going through his legs,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Meanwhile, Hornsby was urging the Braves to trade for Bell. Andy High was the Braves’ third baseman. Born in Ava, Ill., High grew up in St. Louis, where his father was an electrical engineer. High reached the major leagues with the Dodgers in 1922 and played for them until he was claimed on waivers by the Braves in 1925. He hit .302 with 46 RBI for the Braves in 1927 and committed 20 errors in 89 games at third base.

The Cardinals unsuccessfully tried to acquire third baseman Freddie Lindstrom from the Giants, the St. Louis Star-Times reported. They also asked the Phillies about Fresco Thompson, a second baseman whom the Cardinals intended to move to third, but that deal also failed to develop.

The Cardinals were talking with the Braves about a pair of infielders, Doc Farrell and Eddie Moore, and when the Braves offered High for Bell, Cardinals owner Sam Breadon approved the trade.

Effective platoon

Hornsby “was largely responsible for the deal,” United Press reported.

Hornsby told the Star-Times “the Braves consider Bell the greatest third baseman in the business.”

Said Bell: “I intend to … show the Cardinals why they made a mistake. Don’t think I won’t play great ball this summer.”

The Post-Dispatch reported the trade “came as a big surprise to the Cardinals players.” Braves manager Jack Slattery told the newspaper he didn’t think High could field well enough to be a starter.

Though he called High “a great hitter and a wonderful fielder,” McKechnie said Wattie Holm, a utility player, would be the Cardinals’ starter at third base and High would have a backup role.

“I can hardly believe McKechnie is going to give me a chance to be the regular third baseman,” Holm said. “I am going out to show Bill he has not made a mistake in giving me the job.”

Said High: “McKechnie is a wonderful man personally and a mighty shrewd manager. The Cards have a great club. I will try hard to get a regular job and it is my honest opinion that I can help the Cards win many ballgames.”

McKechnie ended up platooning Holm and High. Holm, a right-handed batter, made 82 starts at third base, hit .277 with 47 RBI and committed 22 errors. High, a left-handed batter, started 70 games at third base, hit .285 with 37 RBI and made 12 errors.

The 1928 Cardinals (95-59) won the pennant and finished 44.5 games ahead of the Braves (50-103). Bell batted .277 with 36 doubles and 91 RBI, but he and the hard-hitting Hornsby, who replaced Slattery as manager in May, couldn’t overcome a pitching staff that produced a 4.83 ERA.

Reflecting his versatility as well as the Cardinals’ need for quality pitching in all areas, Juan Acevedo opened the 1998 season as a middle-inning reliever, moved into the starting rotation in May and became the club’s closer in August.

Twenty years ago, on March 29, 1998, the Cardinals traded pitcher Rigo Beltran to the Mets and got Acevedo in return.

The deal was considered to be a relatively minor one at the time, but it turned out to be significant for the Cardinals. Acevedo became their most effective pitcher that season.

Finding his way

Acevedo, born in Mexico, played high school baseball in the Chicago suburb of Carpentersville, Ill. After he graduated, Acevedo worked at a car wash and at a tool and dye shop for three years and didn’t play baseball during that time. “I was young and trying to find myself,” Acevedo later told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

One day, while watching a White Sox game on television, Acevedo became inspired to take up the sport again. He attended two tryout camps and received a scholarship offer to play baseball for Parkland Community College in Illinois.

After one season at Parkland, Acevedo, 22, was chosen by the Rockies in the 14th round of the 1992 amateur draft. A year later, in 1993, Walt Jocketty became assistant general manager of the Rockies. Acevedo worked his way up the Rockies’ minor-league system and in 1994 he posted a 17-6 record and 2.37 ERA for their New Haven farm club.

Jocketty left the Rockies after the 1994 season and became general manager of the Cardinals. Acevedo reached the major leagues with the Rockies in 1995 and was traded to the Mets in July that year. The Mets sent him back to the minor leagues and he stayed there until 1997 when he posted a 3-1 record and 3.59 ERA for New York.

Jocketty kept track of Acevedo and made the deal to obtain him when the Mets made him available in March 1998. “He was one of our best-looking prospects” in Colorado, Jocketty said.

Poise under pressure

Placed on the Opening Day roster, Acevedo, a right-hander, gave up eight runs in his first five relief appearances for the 1998 Cardinals.

He turned around his season with an impressive outing on April 19 against the Phillies.

Acevedo relieved in the ninth inning with the bases loaded, no one out and the Cardinals clinging to a 3-2 lead. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa instructed him to throw only fastballs. Acevedo followed orders and retired Scott Rolen and Mike Lieberthal on pop-outs to first before striking out Rico Brogna, earning the save.

“If I threw 95 mph, I’d throw all fastballs, too,” said Cardinals third baseman Gary Gaetti.

Said Acevedo: “That was the moment I told myself I truly belonged up here. My confidence is as good as it’s ever been.” Boxscore

Ups and downs

In late May, La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan moved Acevedo into the starting rotation as a replacement for Manny Aybar, who was struggling.

Acevedo succeeded, posting a 4-1 record and 2.34 ERA in nine starts for the Cardinals. The added innings, however, caused him to develop a strained elbow and strained forearm, and Acevedo went on the disabled list in July.

When he returned to the active roster in August, Acevedo became the closer. Jeff Brantley, who the Cardinals had counted on to be their closer, had a 7.09 ERA in save situations.

Acevedo was 2-1 with three saves and an 0.93 ERA in eight relief appearances in August, and 1-0 with 10 saves and an 0.00 ERA in 13 relief appearances in September. He didn’t allow a run in his last 16 relief outings.

For the season, Acevedo led the Cardinals in saves (15) and was second in ERA (2.56). He had an 8-3 record. His ERA in save situations was 2.49. Right-handed batters hit .203 against him.

Acevedo entered 1999 as the Cardinals’ closer, but he flopped and was replaced by Ricky Bottalico. Used in a variety of roles, including as a starter, Acevedo finished the 1999 season with a 6-8 record and four saves. His ERA in save situations was 7.84. Right-handed batters hit .301 against him.

In December 1999, the Cardinals traded Acevedo to the Brewers in a deal that brought second baseman Fernando Vina to St. Louis.

Forced into action out of desperation, the Cardinals went looking for a starting pitcher three weeks before the opening of the 2008 season and, in a stroke of good luck, found someone who would become the staff ace.

Ten years ago, on March 13, 2008, the Cardinals, moving reluctantly but out of necessity, signed free agent Kyle Lohse to a one-year contract for $4.25 million.

The Cardinals didn’t want to invest in a free agent at that point in the year, but with four potential starters (Chris Carpenter, Matt Clement, Mark Mulder and Joel Pineiro) unavailable to open the season because of injuries, the club needed a veteran to bolster an unimposing rotation of Adam Wainwright, Todd Wellemeyer, Braden Looper and Brad Thompson.

Lohse, 29, wasn’t a sure bet, but, at that point, he was the best available option.

Pricey pitcher

A right-hander, Lohse pitched for the Twins (2001-2006), Reds (2006-2007) and Phillies (2007) before becoming a free agent in October 2007.

A year earlier, in July 2006, the Cardinals expressed interest in acquiring Lohse for the pennant stretch, but the Twins traded him to the Reds instead. Lohse was a combined 9-12 with a 4.62 ERA for the Reds and Phillies in 2007, but against the Cardinals that season he was 2-1 with a 2.95 ERA.

After Lohse became a free agent, the Cardinals, like all other clubs, were scared off by his contract demands. Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, sought a five-year, $50 million contract for the pitcher, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

With less expensive free-agent pitchers such as Jon Lieber and Bartolo Colon on the market, Lohse remained unsigned when spring training games began.

Help wanted

The Cardinals thought they had enough depth in their rotation, but Carpenter, Clement and Mulder still were not recovered from major surgeries, and when Pineiro developed tightness in his right shoulder, setting back his spring training work, manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan made a plea for help.

Initially, the Cardinals considered bringing back Sidney Ponson, who pitched for them in 2006, but the free agent signed with the Rangers on March 10. Lohse then became the target.

Duncan met with Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and explained to him why signing Lohse was necessary rather than looking to the bullpen or to the minor leagues for help.

“I don’t think we have to worry about having too much pitching,” La Russa said.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak added, “If it were a perfect world, we wouldn’t have had to go down this road, but it’s not and we’re going to need someone to pitch every fifth day.”

Good arsenal

Though Lohse initially was considered a Band-Aid for a tattered rotation _ “Lohse isn’t a star, but he can probably help prevent the destruction of your bullpen,” wrote columnist Bernie Miklasz _ he quickly impressed after arriving at Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Fla.

“He’s got a nice assortment, a lot of different ways to approach a hitter,” Duncan said after seeing Lohse pitch.

Said Lohse: “My slider has pretty much always been my go-to pitch. I can throw it for a strike at any count, or run it off the plate a little bit.”

When the regular season began, Lohse got off to a splendid start, posting a 3-0 record and 2.36 ERA in April.

He ended up leading the 2008 Cardinals in wins (15) and innings pitched (200) and was second on the club in strikeouts (119). He had a 15-6 record and 3.78 ERA in 33 starts.

In five seasons (2008-2012) with the Cardinals, Lohse was 55-35. His best season was in 2012 when he had a 16-3 mark and led the National League in winning percentage (.842).

Jack Hamilton was a hard-throwing Cardinals pitching prospect who left the organization after four seasons and went on to experience his best major-league moments against them.

Hamilton, who died Feb. 22, 2018, at age 79, is most remembered as the pitcher who in 1967 beaned Red Sox slugger Tony Conigliaro, fracturing his cheekbone, dislocating his jaw and severely damaging his left eye.

Though wildness plagued him throughout his professional baseball career, Hamilton was capable of dominating a game. With the Mets in 1966, he pitched a one-hitter against the Cardinals. A year later, he surprised the Cardinals with his bat, hitting a grand slam.

Wild Thing

Hamilton, 18, attended a Cardinals tryout camp at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in 1957 and impressed. “There were a lot of kids there, but I believe only two of us signed contracts,” Hamilton said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Cardinals gave Hamilton a $4,000 bonus and assigned him to Wytheville, Va., a Class D club in the Appalachian League. Hamilton posted a 7-0 record for Wytheville and pitched a no-hitter in a game scheduled for seven innings.

After that, though, he was erratic in pitching for other Cardinals farm clubs. Hamilton was 12-16 for Keokuk, Iowa, in 1958 and 6-10 for York, Pa., in 1959.

Assigned to the Class AA Memphis Chickasaws in 1960, Hamilton was chosen by manager Joe Schultz to be the Opening Day starter against Nashville. “He shut them out for four innings and then he went wild,” Schultz said. “He kept hitting the backstop and a couple of balls almost hit my catcher, Tim McCarver, on the head.”

The Cardinals demoted Hamilton to the Class B Winston-Salem Red Birds and he was 6-9 with a 4.33 ERA. Despite an exceptional fastball _ “He could throw a ball through a brick wall,” said Cardinals icon Red Schoendienst _ Hamilton wasn’t protected on the St. Louis roster and he was chosen by the Phillies in the November 1960 minor-league draft.

“Jack always could throw hard, but he was too wild,” Schultz said.

Beware the bunt

Hamilton, a right-hander, got to the major leagues with the Phillies in 1962 and the rookie led the National League that season in walks (107) and wild pitches (22).

After stints with the Phillies (1962-63) and Tigers (1964-65), Hamilton landed with the Mets in 1966.

On May 4, 1966, Hamilton started for the Mets against the Cardinals at St. Louis and was opposed by Ray Sadecki. Hamilton and Sadecki became friends when both were in the Cardinals’ minor-league system.

Hamilton held the Cardinals to one hit over nine innings in an 8-0 Mets triumph. The lone St. Louis hit was a bunt single by Sadecki with two outs in the third inning.

With the count at 1-and-1, Sadecki pushed a bunt toward the third-base side of the infield. “A bunt was the furthest thing from my mind in the third inning,” said Mets third baseman Ken Boyer, the former Cardinal.

Hamilton told The Sporting News, “He (Sadecki) caught me flat-footed.”

After the game, Sadecki came into the Mets’ clubhouse and congratulated Hamilton. “Ray and I … were old buddies,” Hamilton said. “He told me he was sorry he got the hit. I ribbed him about that, telling him how much money he cost me by preventing me from pitching a no-hitter.” Boxscore

Hard to believe

A year later, on May 20, 1967, Hamilton, a .107 career hitter in the big leagues, hit his only home run, a grand slam off the Cardinals’ Al Jackson in the second inning. Hamilton, however, yielded four runs in three innings and the Cardinals came back for an 11-9 victory over the Mets at New York. Boxscore

“We get the Cardinals games clear on radio from St. Louis to our home in Burlington, Iowa,” Hamilton said, “and my wife said right after I hit the home run she must have got 10 phone calls asking if it was really true.”

A month later, the Mets traded Hamilton to the Angels. He was 9-6 with a 3.24 ERA for the 1967 Angels, but his peformance was marred by the beaning of Conigliaro in August that year.

Hamilton, often accused by opponents of throwing a spitball, finished his major league career in 1969 with the Indians and White Sox. His big-league totals include a 32-40 record, 20 saves and almost as many walks (348) as strikeouts (357).