Fueled by Lynn's fire, Cards ride wild 7th to first win of '24

March 31st, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- There were plenty of wobbles, including a particularly tense moment when Shohei Ohtani came up to bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning. But Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said he never doubted his team would find a way to win on Saturday after veteran pitched out of a first-inning jam and let out a couple of primal screams.

In many ways, the Cardinals took on the fire and the refuse-to-die mantra of their 36-year-old right-hander -- all the way down to that final pitch to Ohtani -- and found a way to grind out a 6-5 victory over the star-studded Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.

“I like that guy, and he’s so good for the young guys and even for guys like me,” Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos, who got the save, said of Lynn. “For me, I like Lance’s energy, and he almost transmits it to me at the end of the game.”

The Cardinals scored five runs in the seventh with a creative rally that included a hit-by-pitch, a catcher’s interference, a sacrifice fly and a balk. Brendan Donovan then broke out of an 0-for-10 start with a two-run double to put the Redbirds ahead, 5-2. When that lead evaporated in the ninth off closer Ryan Helsley, the Cards pushed across rookie Victor Scott II for the first run of his MLB career in the 10th, and Gallegos made it stand up.

“That’s probably something that will be jotted down and written down [in the notebook he’s carried around since the start of Spring Training], since the first hit is still to come,” said Scott of scoring the winning run in his first victory with the Cardinals. “It’s cool that I’m getting all these other things [first stolen base and first run] before that first hit comes.”

Hit hard by lefties last season, Gallegos opened the 10th with strikeouts of James Outman and Jason Heyward, then got Ohtani to sky a popup to short with the bases loaded.

The Cardinals’ first win of the season might not have even been possible late in the night if Lynn had not pulled off two high-wire acts while working out of trouble in the first and second innings.

Lynn’s first inning as a Cardinal since 2017 was a doozy, but he showed the kind of toughness that St. Louis sought in the offseason while remaking its pitching staff. After surrendering singles to the MVP trio of Mookie Betts, Ohtani and Freddie Freeman, Lynn fanned Will Smith, Max Muncy and Teoscar Hernández. Lynn, who was booed by Dodgers fans during pregame introductions, executed a playful crow hop off the mound and screamed into the air.

“Well, the bases are already loaded, so [forget] it and just let it rip,” Lynn said with a wry smile. “It felt great. That’s what I do [with the yelling].”

Lynn pulled off another impressive escape act in the second inning after James Outman walked and Gavin Lux singled. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Lynn then got Betts to pop out and Ohtani to whiff. Lynn showed off his trust in his pitches by challenging Ohtani with an 88.5 mph cutter that the star slugger swung through to end another threat.

“That pitch worked well,” he said. “As long as they swing and miss, it’s always where you want it.”

After an eight-pitch third inning, Lynn pitched through a driving rainstorm in the fourth and kept the ball in the park, even though Outman and Heyward drives pushed right fielder Alec Burleson to the warning track. Of his 70 pitches, Lynn got 11 swings and misses, five of them leading to strikeouts.

“Lance loaded the bases and then he punched out three in a row, and you want the group to take on that personality,” Marmol said of his starter, who was a part of the Cardinals’ World Series-winning team in 2011. “What we saw today, he battled through it and figured out how to get outs. I love watching him because he’s a competitor, he cares, he shows his emotions, and he makes it fun.”

Lynn said he takes it as a compliment that the Cards potentially feed off his energy. They might as well, he said, because he isn’t changing his style.

“You show up every day and you do your thing, but you still have to perform,” Lynn said. “I was able to get out of some stuff, and then the offense started chipping away and the bullpen did their jobs after the rain delay. It was a good team win.”