Cards righty tempers emotions, big innings to enter postseason on a roll
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals will send Lance Lynn to the mound to start Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Friday at Busch Stadium (noon CT on MLB Network), but there was a point not long ago that Lynn might have been the odd man out of the Cards' rotation.
The 26-year-old right-hander allowed four or more earned runs in seven of his 12 starts in July and August, struggling to reel in his emotions throughout. Lynn would often flash the effectiveness that helped him to a 9-1 start to the season, but then fall victim to a big inning that would ultimately be the difference as he went 3-7 with a 5.35 ERA in that span.
"We saw pretty good stuff. All we would see is just little blips on the screen where it seemed to be one inning, five runs," manager Mike Matheny said. "He was dominant for the first three innings. He would give up four or five, and then he'd go another four innings where he just looked great. It was just a matter of harnessing that one inning and not letting things get out of hand."
Key stat: Cole finished the regular season with a streak of eight consecutive quality starts dating back to Aug. 16.
Key stat: Lynn went 9-3 with a 2.82 ERA at Busch Stadium this season versus 6-7 with a 5.15 ERA away from home.
At Busch Stadium
2013: N/A Career: N/A
2013: 16 GS, 9-3, 2.82 ERA Career: 39 G, 29 GS, 18-8, 2.97 ERA
Against this opponent
2013: N/A Career: N/A
2013: 5 GS, 2-1, 5.60 ERA Career: 11 G, 9 GS, 4-2, 5.03 ERA
Loves to face: N/A Hates to face: N/A
Loves to face: Andrew McCutchen, 4-for-26, 10 K Hates to face: Starling Marte, 6-for-13, 2 2B, 3B
Why he'll win: In seven road starts this season, Cole posted a 2.38 ERA (12 earned runs in 45 1/3 innings) and a 0.95 WHIP.
Why he'll win: Lynn has allowed three earned runs in 24 2/3 innings (1.09 ERA) over his last four starts.
Pitcher beware: Opposing hitters are batting .347 against Cole over his first 25 pitches in a game.
Pitcher beware: Lynn has a 4.50 ERA in his postseason career, giving up seven earned runs in 11 innings (5.73 ERA) in the playoffs last year.
Bottom line: Cole needs to take advantage of the fact that the Cardinals have never faced him, and keep his composure in his first career postseason start.
Bottom line: Lynn has to have a short memory and forget about his last two outings against the Pirates (10.61 ERA), focusing instead on pitching like he has all season at Busch Stadium.
After Lynn was roughed up for 10 hits and seven runs by Pittsburgh on Aug. 31, then gave up another four earned runs on Sept. 5 in Cincinnati, general manager John Mozeliak said if things didn't turn around, the Cardinals might need to make a change to their rotation for the final month of the season.
"The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different outcome," Mozeliak said Sept. 6. "So at some point, something has to give."
But as his chances to prove himself were dwindling, Lynn responded and cooled his hot seat by allowing just three earned runs and fanning 30 batters in his last four starts. He concluded his regular season by holding the Cubs scoreless on four hits over six innings last Friday.
"I think he's learned how to have a consistent demeanor on the mound. Consistently aggressive, though," Matheny said. "He's naturally a guy that goes out there like a bull. He's had just a real nice tempo on the mound. He's had a great disposition. He's had a lot of confidence when he's on the mound. That's something that has just been a great momentum for him and for us, and we're excited to watch him pitch."
With 22 postseason innings under his belt, Lynn is among the Cards' most experienced playoff pitchers on a young St. Louis staff. He made 10 relief appearances in 2011, and then four more last season before starting Games 1 and 5 of the NL Championship Series. On Friday, Lynn will look to further his October resume and build off the momentum of Adam Wainwright's dominant Game 1 gem, in which he allowed one run on three hits, striking out nine, over seven innings.
"We never undervalue experience," Matheny said of his veterans' approach after Thursday's 9-1 victory. "We've got a lot of experience in there. Not just postseason experience, but success in the postseason, and that's why we're real quick to make sure that the young players are spending a lot of time listening to the veterans about how they prepare, what they do.
"But it comes back to a pretty simple approach. They're going to do what they know is best and what they've been doing all season long."
Lynn will try to build off his regular-season momentum against the Pirates, a team he faced five times in the regular season, with mixed results. He limited the Bucs to one run in a pair of outings, but yielded 15 runs in the other three. The Cardinals are hopeful Lynn can recreate the success that helped him to 33 wins over the past two seasons, and on Friday, the right-hander will be pitching with a significant advantage on his side.
Lynn posted a 6-7 record and a 5.15 ERA in 17 road starts this season, but those numbers improve dramatically when he's pitching in the comforts of home. In 16 starts at Busch Stadium, Lynn was 9-3 with a 2.82 ERA.
"You see all the splits. Some guys are better at home, better on the road," Lynn said. "Hitters are the same way. But it's just part of the game. Some people see the ball better at certain places. Some pitchers feel more comfortable at certain places. But I have the luxury of throwing in front of the home crowd here, and I'm excited about it."
Though the postseason presents a brighter spotlight and a heightened atmosphere, Lynn won't be treating it as that. In a familiar ballpark against a familiar foe, Lynn is approaching the start as he would any regular-season contest.
"To be here at this time, you know what it's all about," Lynn said. "It's, 'Get the job done, help your team win.' It doesn't matter if it's regular season, postseason, whatever it may be. You're just thinking about one thing, and that is getting the job done for your team and giving them a chance to win."