Apparently, the Brewers did their homework since the last time they faced the Cardinals. Of course, things have changed quite a bit for the Redbirds since then, too.
Lance “First Half” Lynn is tending toward the late-season struggles we hoped were a thing of the past. Jake Westbrook can’t seem to hold it together. Michael Wacha hasn’t been the rotation savior we’d hoped for. Neither has Carlos Martinez. Even Shelby Miller has shown signs of vulnerability after taking that line drive off his elbow a few weeks back.
And, the Brewers are the least of this rotation’s concerns over the next few weeks.
Last night, many will argue, was not really Lynn’s fault. A litany of innocent singles and a few less-than-stellar defensive plays quickly turned a 3-0 Cardinals lead into a 5-3 hole.
But, he had good stuff! They were only singles! Twice a double play could have/should have/would have been made if that slouch David Freese wasn’t manning third!
Maybe. All too often, though, we’ve seen Lynn allow a few fluky singles to ruin his night — and that of his team that just happens to be vying for a chance to take back the NLC lead. So, it’s hard to write it off as everyone else’s fault.
Even Mike Matheny who seems to be everyone’s favorite punching bag as of late could have done things differently. I mean, he had Tyler Lyons sitting in the pen. Tyler Lyons — the guy who has been a starter all year and has proven himself capable of pitching more than one inning. It’s understandable to hesitate yanking your starter in the fourth, or even after the fourth. When it wasn’t a matter of Lynn’s “stuff,” Matheny stayed the course. It was Lynn’s night to just “wear it.”
Wise move, what with Westbrook pitching the next day and the potential of a long day for the bullpen? Probably.
Also, against the Brew Crew, 5-3 game shouldn’t be impossible to come back from. Not even a 6-3 game should be impossible, considering a couple of walks and a couple of doubles that could have started a rally more than once.
One of those doubles belonged to Kolten Wong, who is looking more and more comfortable with the “big kids” in each at bat. He’s proven himself a quick learner and he’s hungry to both prove he belongs and help this team win.
Unfortunately, not even Wong’s “spark” was enough last night.
The question, then, becomes this: how concerned should the Cardinals be about the rotation woes?
As noted, things don’t get any easier. The Cardinals send an erratic Westbrook to the mound today with a well-rested bullpen behind him. But, the Brewers are throwing Tom Gorzelanny who was beat up by the Reds in his last start, but he’s a lefty. That typically causes problems.
Then, the Cardinals go home to welcome in the Braves. Joe Kelly will start things off in that series, followed by Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller (which should be a decent trio of starters). Lynn will close the battle with the Braves on Sunday.
Oh, and if that wasn’t fun enough, the Reds are up next for three at Busch to wrap up the homestand … just in time for the Redbirds to head back out to the place of their undoing, PNC Park for another head-to-head round with the Pirates.
Once they survive all that, they get the Reds again. At Great American Ball Park.
I won’t pretend that I’m not uneasy about the rotation heading into this stretch, or the offense, for that matter, that seems to struggle mightily against the talented pitching from the Braves and Pirates specifically.
Maybe someone should put a special call in to Dave Duncan. Get him to come by and settle things down. Work his magic. Use the Duncan touch — everything he touches turns into an ace. … or something like that.
Regardless, these Birds are simply going to have to bear down and fight for every strike, every out, and every run. The division is theirs for the taking over the next two weeks, but it’s not going to be easy getting back to the top.
They could start it off today with Westbrook getting back on track against a (theoretically) manageable Brewers team. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m.
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on twitter @tarawellman.