ST. LOUIS -- Two former first-round Draft picks dueled it out at Busch Stadium on Saturday -- one with a Cy Young Award and three All-Star appearances to his credit; the other the owner of just one Major League win.
But past accomplishments played no part in Saturday's outcome, as it was Brad Lincoln -- not Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter -- that shined in the afternoon affair. In one of the best starts of his short big league career, Lincoln shut out St. Louis for six innings in the Pirates' 7-0 victory.
The win, which came in front of 35,812 fans, snapped a season-worst five-game road losing streak for Pittsburgh. It also marked the Pirates' first shutout in St. Louis since winning, 11-0, on Sept. 3, 2007.
"A superb outing," manager Clint Hurdle said. "[Lincoln was] very efficient, worked inside extremely well again. Good breaking ball, good changeup -- outstanding."
Added to the rotation when Kevin Correia went down with an oblique injury, Lincoln was making just his third start of the year for Pittsburgh. The first two had come in doubleheaders.
Lincoln has been candid about the impact of this opportunity, too. Unable to crack the rotation out of Spring Training, he views this final month as a chance to prove he deserves to stick long term. He was content pitching out of the bullpen earlier this month when that was the only option. But Lincoln unhesitatingly would prefer to start.
No doubt he'll get many more if Saturday's outing is indicative of what will follow.
"I'm going to go out there and lay it all on the line and see what they have to say," Lincoln said. "Every start means something now. I've gotten to the point in my career where I have to start showing something and showing them that I'm here for a reason. To go out there and show that I can attack guys and get them out at this level, I think, says a lot."
He attacked the St. Louis lineup as well as any Pirates pitcher has attacked an offense this year. Lincoln threw inside with confidence and mixed his pitches up extremely well. Of the 78 pitches he threw, only 23 were balls. Lincoln's only walk came in his final inning of work.
"I've been up and down [between the Majors and Minors] quite a bit, but the last few times I played behind him, that's what he was looking like," said Josh Harrison, who backed Lincoln with his second career three-hit game. "He was throwing all his pitches for strikes where he wanted to."
Lincoln faced only one over the minimum through the first four innings before allowing two hits in the fifth. He got out of that jam by getting pinch-hitter Corey Patterson to ground out.
The right-hander's toughest test came in the sixth, when three straight Cardinals hitters reached with two outs. Lincoln ended that threat -- and his outing -- by getting Skip Schumaker to swing through a 1-2 curveball. It was his fourth strikeout of the day.
"Last year, I think I nibbled a little bit," said Lincoln, who had a 6.57 ERA in nine 2010 starts. "If you go out there with a doubt in your mind that you're not going to get the job done, bad things will happen. You just have to go out there and attack and be who you are. Don't let anybody dictate what you do."
Lincoln, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, has now allowed just four runs in 18 innings as a starter this year. He picked up his first win of 2011 with Saturday's effort, and both of his big league victories have been scoreless efforts.
"He made good pitches," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "He had a nice assortment, mixed things up and the catcher handled him well."
Added Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina: "He pitched a great game."
Lincoln is not the only Pirates player currently auditioning for next season. Among those also trying to parlay a strong finish into a 2012 job are Harrison and Garrett Jones, both of whom had three hits off Carpenter.
The Cardinals righty, who had allowed just seven runs in his last four starts combined, gave up five extra-base hits and four singles. It all led to six runs in a five-inning outing.
"I made some good pitches and I made some bad pitches," Carpenter said. "There were a few balls which got up, and they just beat me."
Two of Jones' three hits were doubles, and he scored after both of those extra-base knocks. Harrison followed Jones' two-out double in the second with an RBI single. Two innings later, Harrison singled home two more.
Lincoln capped the Pirates' four-run fourth with an RBI double. It was the first double of Lincoln's career.
Neil Walker's 11th homer of the season drove home the team's final run off Carpenter. Walker, along with Andrew McCutchen and Jones, all flaunt career averages of above .300 against Carpenter.
"Carp wasn't as sharp as we've seen him," Hurdle said. "We hit balls that he missed with. I thought we showed more discipline."
Daniel McCutchen and Chris Resop trailed Lincoln with scoreless appearances to secure the team's 11th shutout of the season. That ranks as the fifth most in the National League and gives Pittsburgh its most shutouts since 2005, when the club had 14.
The Pirates have thrown at least one shutout against every division opponent this year.
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.