Right-hander, who struggled in NLCS for St. Louis last year, welcomes challenge
LOS ANGELES -- In the quiet of the St. Louis Cardinals' clubhouse following their 3-0 loss to the Dodgers in Game 3 on Monday night, Lance Lynn shook his head. No, he said, the way he will approach his start in Game 4 (Tuesday on TBS at 7 p.m. CT) of the National League Championship Series has not changed.
The stakes, however, were altered greatly by the Dodgers' shutout win on Monday. Instead of pitching with his team up 3-0 and having a chance to sweep the series, Lynn will be pitching to keep the series from being tied 2-2 with the Dodgers' co-aces lined up to pitch the next two games.
"Whatever happens to be on the table [Tuesday], I'm looking forward to it," Lynn said before Monday's game.
Last year in the NLCS, Lynn was on the Busch Stadium mound to start Game 5 with an opportunity to clinch the series and send the Cardinals to the World Series. Instead, he allowed four runs over 3 2/3 innings as the Giants recorded the first of what would be three straight victories to win the NL pennant.
This is a different year, a different opponent and there's no chance to clinch, but there is no doubt that Lynn would love to pitch well and erase that memory.
"During the offseason, I did think a lot on my last start last season, and it wasn't very good," he said.
2013: 6 GS (7 G), 4-2, 2.48 ERA Career: 8 GS (9 G), 4-3, 3.80 ERA
2013: 1 GS, 1-0, O.OO ERA Career: 3 GS, 2-0, 2.50 ERA
Against this opponent
2013: 2 GS, 2-0, 0.75 ERA Career: 10 GS (11 G), 3-4, 3.84 ERA
2013: 1 GS, 1-0, 0.00 ERA Career: 3 GS, 2-0, 2.50 ERA
Loves to face: Yadier Molina, 3-for-11 Hates to face: Matt Holliday, 12-for-26, 2 HR
Loves to face: Michael Young, 0-for-9, 5 K Hates to face: Carl Crawford, 2-for-4
Why he'll win: Had success against Cardinals in regular season
Why he'll win: Has never lost to Dodgers
Pitcher beware: Has never pitched in the postseason
Pitcher beware: Allowed 5 earned runs in lone start this October
Bottom line: Forget about rough end to regular season
Bottom line: Limit impact from Dodgers' stars
When they left St. Louis up 2-0 on Saturday night, the Redbirds seemed to be in control of the series. After all, Dodgers co-aces Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw had already pitched, and the Cards had ace Adam Wainwright going in Game 3.
Things have shifted quickly, and should the Dodgers win Tuesday, the series will be tied at 2, with Greinke and Kershaw set to pitch Games 5 and 6.
"He's a gamer," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said of Lynn. "I think he understands what's at stake, and he's a bulldog and he wants the ball. Hopefully he has a good outing tomorrow."
Lynn will be battling not just the Dodgers on Tuesday, but perhaps some rust as well. While he did earn the win after tossing two scoreless innings in a Game 1 relief appearance, Lynn has not started a game since Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the Pirates on Oct. 4. Lynn allowed five runs on seven hits over 4 1/3 innings as the Bucs went on to win, 7-1.
The relief appearance in Game 1 of the NLCS made the layoff somewhat easier for Lynn. Whether the long time between starts is a good thing after a long season or whether it will prevent him from being sharp remains to be seen.
"Everything's different," Lynn said of the postseason. "With the extra off-days and all that stuff, the playoffs are always going to throw off your normal routine, because you're used to playing every single day. So it's something you get used to. At this time of the year, it doesn't hurt to have extra rest the way the whole season played out. But we're all creatures of habits, so we like to stay in our routines."
Pitching in the playoffs is something that Lynn became accustomed to at an early age. When he was 12 years old, Lynn pitched and played first base to help his team from Brownsburg, Ind., reach the 1999 Little League World Series.
Then as a teenager, Lynn was part of a Brownsburg High School team that played in three straight state championship games. The team finally won it in 2005, and Lynn was on the mound to close it out. That capped a season in which he went 16-0 with a 0.71 ERA.
Does all that experience help prepare him for big games?
"It doesn't hurt, that's for sure," Lynn said. "But when it's all said and done, I've never been in Dodger Stadium pitching a Game 4 of the NLCS. So you can take whatever you want from any situation you've ever been in, but every situation is going to be new and it's going to have different things to overcome. I'm looking forward to trying to overcome that tomorrow night."
Cards manager Mike Matheny chose Lynn for the start over rookie Shelby Miller, citing several factors, including matchups, recent work and how both fared against the Dodgers, as well as how they finished up the 2013 season.
Lynn's postseason experience certainly did not hurt.
"Experience is one of your greatest teachers if you're paying really close attention," Matheny said. "And Lance is a guy that's paying attention. He's a competitor. His stuff is right. When he's throwing the ball well, it's fun to watch him. So hopefully he goes out there with a lot of confidence."