Brewers hit wall vs. Lynn as Cards hit over it
Two homers back starter's seven scoreless as Milwaukee's streak ends
MILWAUKEE -- Insistent that he not leave his offense to pick him up again, Lance Lynn took control of Monday night's game -- an eventual 4-0 win over the Brewers -- before he ever threw his first pitch.
Mentally, he implemented micro goals of getting through the first inning unscathed, then the second, and the third. That first inning had been particularly pesky to him. Six of the eight runs he allowed in his first two starts had scored in that opening frame.
There were physical alterations, too, as Lynn, perpetually one to get stronger the longer he pitches, decided to start his outing tired. He did more pregame running, threw "rapid fire" pitches (to use his words) before the national anthem, and then followed with his normal bullpen warmup.
"I have a tendency to be over-amped to start a game, and a lot of balls get up in the middle of the zone," Lynn said afterward. "Tonight, I was in that groove that you need to be in when you start the game."
It all served as context en route to Lynn making one of the better starts of his career. Behind seven scoreless innings from him and two home runs, the Cardinals ended the Brewers' winning streak at nine games in front of 27,090 fans, who under the Miller Park roof had a respite from the snow outside.
"Today, was as good as I've seen him," said Matt Carpenter, who watched Lynn's final innings on television after his arguing a called third strike earned him a fifth-inning ejection. "And he's had some good outings."
"He was really a lot better than I've seen him in the past," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "He had it all."
Lynn's run support came via a second-inning swing from Jhonny Peralta and another in the sixth from Jon Jay, whose three-run blast rewarded manager Mike Matheny's decision to build his lineup based on matchups. Jay's inclusion as the team's starting center fielder was rooted in his past success (6-for-9) against Milwaukee starter Matt Garza.
"Jon has been an impact in all of these games that he has played in," Matheny said. "That [sixth inning] looked like it could have been a real turning point for that game. Jon did a nice job of picking us back up."
Jay did help the Cardinals salvage an inning in which they ran into outs at both home and third. After Matt Holliday was thrown out trying to score from first on a double and Matt Adams was stopped trying to advance on a grounder to the first baseman, Peralta extended the inning with a single.
Jay then clubbed Garza's 1-2 hanging slider -- Lucroy said afterward that the pitch was intended to be in the dirt -- into the right-field seats.
"[I'm] just trying to stay alive," Jay said. "He left a pitch over the plate, and I was able to handle it, and it made a big inning for us."
The blast, Jay's first of the season, ended at 26 a string of starts with three or fewer earned runs allowed by Brewers pitching.
"The worst thing is it's just a big-time momentum shift right there," Garza said. "I felt we had momentum after the tag at home, and the great plays on defense, and that [one pitch] was a back-breaker in a sense."
Peralta's third homer of the season staked St. Louis to the early lead. After being given a day off to regroup from a slow start, Peralta has responded with consecutive multihit games.
It was all more than enough help for Lynn, accustomed to being heartily supported by his offense. He averaged nearly six runs of support per start in 2013, and the Cardinals tallied seven in each of his first two starts this year.
While becoming the National League's second three-game winner, Lynn proved that he doesn't always have to be carried. Over seven innings, Lynn shut out a Brewers offense that had scored a combined 53 runs in sweeps of Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. His 36 wins since the start of 2012 now place him atop the NL in that category.
"I know sabermatricians don't like it, but this game comes down to wins and losses. That's what we're preaching in here," Matheny said. "And a guy who finds a way to win, to me, needs to be given a lot of credit because that's the ultimate goal for us. Whether you're getting a lot of support or throwing a shutout, one way or another, you're finding a way to get it done, and Lance has done that."
Lynn avoided recurring first-inning trouble by getting Ryan Braun to ground into an inning-ending double play. He then retired 11 of the next 12 batters he faced, before two-out trouble brewed in the fifth. Lynn extinguished it with a strikeout of Garza. An inning later, he retired Jonathan Lucroy to strand two more.
He closed his outing by retiring pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds with his 11th strikeout of the night, one short of his career high. It marked just the third time in 67 career starts that Lynn had pitched at least seven innings without allowing a run. His four- and two-seam fastballs were especially effective throughout.
"It was just one of those days where the fastball was good, and I was able to mix some other pitches in when I needed to," Lynn said. "When you can do that, it makes for a fun night."
Carlos Martinez made quick work of the Brewers in backing up Lynn. He retired all six batters he faced to preserve the Cardinals' second shutout of the year. It was orchestrated by Tony Cruz, who was making his first start of the season behind the plate.
"As long as we get a W, to help contribute to that is huge," said Cruz, who also went 2-for-4. "[Hits] are just a bonus. Catching and helping my pitcher are No. 1."