Buoyed by big inning, Lynn blanks Yankees
ST. LOUIS -- The motivation may have bordered on pestering, but the message from Adam Wainwright had long since gotten across to Lance Lynn.
Lynn described it as a daily callout, one in which Wainwright reminded his 27-year-old rotation-mate that it was time he finished a game.
Why the singling out from the staff ace?
"He thinks I'm too good not to have one," Lynn answered.
Now he does.
With his first complete game since competing at the collegiate level, Lynn pulled the Cardinals even in the three-game series with a 6-0 victory over the Yankees on Tuesday night. He celebrated in front of another sellout crowd at Busch Stadium by embracing catcher Yadier Molina -- "He knew how much it meant to me," Lynn said -- and by taking a towel of shaving cream to the face during an on-field interview.
The ball that Brian Roberts hit to left fielder Matt Holliday for the final out of the game was going home with Lynn, along with a few more words from Wainwright.
"'Bout time," Wainwright told Lynn afterward.
It had taken Lynn 75 starts and a little eighth-inning negotiation to get it done.
"Since I've been here, any chance he gets to get through that ninth inning, he wants it real bad," said manager Mike Matheny, who had twice (once in 2012, again in 2013) removed Lynn after eight innings. "When these guys do all the extra work, he's pushing for stuff like this. I'm happy to watch him do it."
While the Cardinals were batting in the eighth, the key conversation ensued. Lynn, his pitch count already at 116, asked for nine more. Matheny agreed, prepared to pull the right-hander if anyone got on base.
Lynn kept Matheny from making that walk by retiring the side in order. And though Lynn threw a career-high 126 pitches, the Cardinals have often talked about how his durability makes him one who can be pushed deeper than most.
"That's your goal, to always throw a complete-game shutout," Lynn said. "Every time you go out, that's what you try to do -- not give up any runs and finish it. Today was the first time I was able to do that. It took me way too long."
The shutout was also win No. 40 of Lynn's career, making him the seventh pitcher in franchise history to reach that total in fewer than 100 appearances. The Cardinals' rotation can also now boast of being the Majors' first with three six-game winners, and the nine shutouts tie the Cardinals with the Rangers for the most in baseball, too.
"For him to be able to finish a game and for him to get a complete-game shutout saves our bullpen and gives us a chance tomorrow in a rubber match to have a rested bullpen," said Holliday, who reached base four times. "And individually, I think it builds confidence for him that he can go out and pitch eight, nine innings."
Too often the victim of the big inning, Lynn found himself the beneficiary of one on Tuesday. All the run support he needed came in the third, when the Cardinals' offense applied the pressure and the Yankees offered the extra outs. It spoiled the homecoming of New York starter David Phelps while leading the Cardinals to their 10th win in 13 games.
The Cardinals batted around against Phelps in the third despite going just 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position in the frame. After Matt Adams drove home one and Molina was intentionally walked, Phelps' chance to get out of the mess was foiled by his own infielders.
The inning's second run scored when first baseman Kelly Johnson couldn't make a catch-and-tag of Allen Craig on a Derek Jeter throw that took him off the base. Phelps induced another ground ball, one that second baseman Brian Roberts eyed as the start of an inning-ending double play.
Instead he watched it skip by, allowing two runs to score.
"I looked up to see where the runner was to just get a feel of what kind of play it was going to be," Roberts said. "Obviously, [I] looked up at the wrong time."
Home runs by Allen Craig (fifth inning) and Holliday (seventh) added a bit of pop to the final line. Holliday, who had a three-hit night, has reached base safely in each of the team's 23 home games.
The homers were merely a bonus for Lynn.
Relying heavily on the sinker and fooling with the curveball, Lynn, who hadn't pitched into the eighth this season, allowed just one ball (a double) out of the infield through four innings. He did allow the leadoff hitter to reach four times but was otherwise stingy. Brian McCann wouldn't budge after a leadoff double in the second. Similarly, the other three leadoff hitters to reach never made it as far as third.
"He was very good," Roberts said. "He worked the fastball to both sides of the plate and commanded his breaking ball when he needed and stuff like that."
Though one of two position players not to reach on Tuesday, second baseman Kolten Wong had a standout defensive night. He raced Jacoby Ellsbury to the bag with one on in the fourth and beat him to record the first out. That inning, one in which Lynn walked two, closed with Wong making a spectacular start on a double play.
Wong ended the next inning with a diving catch in right-field foul territory.
"I just told myself I'm going to be more confident and play my baseball and do what I need to stay up here," said Wong, highly impressive since his May 14 callup. "I think when I finally took that approach, things got better."
As they will for Lynn, who no longer will be reminded of a career shortcoming.
"It was definitely one to remember," Lynn said. "To do it against the Yankees is exciting, especially when it's your first one as a professional."