There was a chance. After giving up a single and a walk, he had a moment … a small one, but a moment, nonetheless. In his defense, most anyone would have had a moment when the throw from Tony Cruz to Daniel Descalso ended up in center field, allowing the first run of the game to score.
Lynn is certainly allowed a moment of frustration there.
More often than not, though — at least as of late — that “moment” turns into a catastrophe. The frustration steals away his focus and BAM. It’s all over.
I’ll admit it — I was ready for it. I was bracing for “in play, run(s)” to flash across my iPhone screen. I was even more resigned to it when Lynn promptly walked the next Milwaukee batter to put two on with two outs in the second inning.
Whether he wants to believe it or not, he was pitching for his rotation life last night. Based on the rumblings from the top of the food chain (i.e. John Mozeliak), the organization isn’t entirely pleased with the repeated “maturity” struggles. No one has ever questioned Lynn’s stuff. But, keeping the attitude and emotions in check? That’s been in question for a while now.
Eventually, a guy simply has to grow beyond those struggles. He has to trust himself, the people around him, keep his head down and do his job.
That sloppy second inning set him up for a public hanging of sorts, should he again let his emotional intensity get the best of him. But …
Not today, my friend!
Instead of collapsing, Lynn took charge. Instead of permitting the unearned run to ruin his night, as well as his club’s chances of winning their fifth-straight game, he pulled it together in impressive, 10-strikeout fashion.
He did what we all believed was possible, but hadn’t seen in a while. He pitched like a pro.
Say what you will about the quality (or lack thereof) of the opponent. This was a mental victory, if nothing else. It’s hard to just “get right” against a team that’s tough as nails and fighting for their own playoff spot. Perhaps this stretch against sub-.500 teams is just what the doctor ordered for the starting rotation to work out the few remaining kinks before the playoffs arrive.
Or, maybe it was the pitchers’ meeting called by Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright that set things straight.
Before Wednesday’s game, with the coaching staff also involved, Carpenter and reigning ace Adam Wainwright conducted a 15-minute seminar for second-year starter Lynn and even less experienced starters in Kelly, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.
Lynn said the conversation revolved around “being mentally prepared to go down this stretch. We’ve got a group of three guys who have never been down this stretch and/or never started a game in the playoffs that might need a bit of assurance how to go about this.
“Carp may be one of the best playoff pitchers of all time. He’s a good one to listen to.”
Whatever it is, Lynn needs to do more of it. These Redbirds are going to need last night’s version of the Wolf Pup down the stretch. That other version? I’d be okay if he never came back.
The downside last night for Lynn was that the offense waited so late to get things going that he missed out on a win. But, the offense did get going … eventually.
For the second time in as many nights, the Cardinals were being no-hit into the sixth inning of the game (though the umpires — now admittedly — called a ball foul that was actually fair, which could have been a turning point as well as the first hit.) Not the greatest way to help out your starting pitchers, but so it goes.
With two on and two out in the bottom of the seventh, it was Daniel Descalso who knocked out to left field, allowing Matt Holliday to score the tying run. That was, of course, after Matt Carpenter broke up the no-no in the sixth. He would later pick up his second hit, then score the go-ahead run in the eighth.
It was all Cardinals from there after Jon Jay scored on a throwing error, then Matt Adams homered to make it 5-1 Redbirds.
(Side note: Can we just decide on Adams’ nickname already? The “Big City … or Big Country, whatever it is…” comment from the announcers every single time is beyond old. Just pick one! But, I digress.)
That also makes it five in a row for the first-place Cardinals who remain one game ahead of Pittsburgh and three over Cincinnati. And, if you’re keeping track, that’s a full rotation of good starts for the Cardinals, too. Only two runs were give up by starters this week, and one was of the unearned variety (last night against Lynn).
Joe Kelly will kick off round two, starting tonight in the finale with the Brew Crew. You didn’t hear it from me, but the Redbirds are looking for back-to-back sweeps. Now go knock on some wood.
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on twitter @tarawellman.