When the defending National League champions are in your backyard, you brave the rush hour traffic on the Grand Central Parkway to see them up close and personal. So what if it took an hour to go two miles? The gridlock was worth it in order to transform my View from Studio 3 into a view from the Cardinals' side of Citi Field.
On a picture-perfect night in the Big Apple, I meandered around the dugout at the exact same time a group of Cardinals pitchers were heading out for a pregame stretch. Each hurler seemingly taller, younger and more nimble than the next. If you ever want to know where you rank on the food chain of athleticism, spend a few minutes around 20- and 30-something-year-old pro athletes.
Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn, just to name a few. All you can do is marvel at how this organization churns out stud pitchers like Jimmy Dean churns out sausages.
Lynn points to great Drafts and some luck along the way.
"We get pretty high-character guys, too," he said. "So if you get guys who want to work hard and want to improve and have talent, you're usually going to have success there."
Lynn should know. He's a former first-round Draft pick. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, his size doesn't match his demeanor. He's understated and under the radar. But don't think for a second Lynn is not a bulldog on the mound. In a few short years he's evolved into arguably the most underrated starting pitcher on the team and perhaps in the NL. Throw out the advanced metrics: He wins games. Period. In fact, since 2012, no pitcher in baseball has won more games (26) before the All-Star break than Lance Lynn. Feel free to turn that fact into a trivia question for your weekend cookout.
Manager Mike Matheny notes that Lynn has the propensity to keep the team in games.
"We believe this game comes down to winning and losing," Matheny said. "We believe that certain pitchers get out there and give us a chance to win."
Very few do that better than Lynn. You certainly can't overlook the fact only one pitcher in the game can rely on his offense the way Lynn relies on his. Since 2012, he averages 5.50 runs per game in support. That ranks second in all of baseball among pitchers who have made at least 50 starts. Only Felix Doubront at 5.55 runs per game ranks higher.
While run support helps his cause on the field, the support provided by his fellow pitchers and batterymate proves just as important .
"We all stick together. That's the beauty of our team and our pitching staff, is we're a pretty close group," Lynn said. "We're always together talking about guys' swings as the game is going on. If a guy started against a team the night before and you're going the next day, you're sitting there talking over each hitter."
At 26 years old and in his third year as a full-time starter, Lynn is a veteran on a staff with members who look barely old enough to shave. He's also in good hands when he toes the rubber. Squatting 60 feet, 6 inches away is the best defensive catcher in the game, Yadier Molina.
"The way he keeps you in tune in the game and also the way he reads hitters while catching," Lynn said. "A lot of guys are so concentrated on framing, his ability to read hitters as the game goes on is incredible. He also prepares better than anyone I've ever seen."
What a remarkable situation. An All-Star starter teaming up with an all-world catcher on a perennial playoff team. The world is Lynn's oyster. Matheny is impressed at how Lynn continues to improve. But I can't help but wonder how the pitcher has continued to elude the national spotlight. I got my answer when I asked him to tell me one thing about Lance Lynn that fans don't know about him.
"Lance Lynn doesn't want people to worry about him. He just worries about himself and his team. That's all that matters."
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET.