(BaseballStL) — Two starts removed from his complete-game effort on May 27, Lance Lynn took the hill at Busch Friday night and put on a show.
After getting battered by the Giants and lasting only five innings in Toronto, Lynn’s night against the Nationals was an altogether masterful rebound.
He began by setting down the first 15 hitters in order, striking out four while tossing an economical 74 pitches.
“I thought that was as good as we’ve seen all things considered,” Mike Matheny said after the game. “The movement, the life that he had. That curveball today was more of a weapon than probably it’s been in a long time.”
Lynn said both his two-seam and four-seam fastball were strong, allowing him control the entire plate and keep hitters off balance.
“That’s my pitch, I pitch off of that,” he said. “When I have both the two and the four going, it opens up both sides of the plate and keeps them honest.” His curveball, which as Matheny suggested was perhaps the best it has been all season, was the third piece to the puzzle.
Complimenting expert fastball command, Lynn’s hook proved one thing too many for Nats hitters to keep track of.
“We mixed it in for a couple innings there and got them thinking I was going to start doing that and then went back to the fastball,” Lynn said in the clubhouse. “That’s part of the cat and mouse game of going through a lineup a couple times.”
He began the sixth with an out, but Jose Lobaton spoiled perfection when he slapped a line-hugging single into left. A bobble by Matt Holliday put him on second, and the tying run was suddenly 180 feet away.
Such a sudden change in momentum could unsettle some pitchers, but Lynn appeared unfazed by the loss of a no-hit bid.
“People get hits. Not everybody throws a no hitter every time or it would be a boring game,” he smiled at his locker afterward.
He promptly closed the door, getting a pop up and a fly out to center to end the threat.
His seventh saw a second hit, this time by Jayson Werth, but it was sandwiched by a strikeout and a 5-4 shifted double play, which ended the frame at nine pitches for Lynn. It was another calm erasure of a possible threat, done with ruthless efficiency.
“It looked like he was focusing on making good pitches,” Matheny said. “He didn’t get distracted mainly because he had a lot of pitches he was putting right where he wanted.”
After what appeared to be signs that the Nationals had begun to figure the big righty out, Lynn disabused them of the notion by striking out the first two challengers in the eighth and coaxing Danny Espinosa into flying gently to center field. It would be his final inning, as the ninth was handed to closer Trevor Rosenthal.
In 111 pitches, Lynn threw 73 strikes and fanned eight. Both hits were singles and there were no free passes issued. More importantly, he was ahead of 17 out of 25 hitters with a strike, and managed 13 swings and misses.
With a shot at his second-ever complete game shutout, Lynn said he briefly campaigned for the ninth, but gave up the ghost rather quickly.
“With the days off Trevor’s had, and having two days off in four, I wasn’t going to win even if I tried really, really hard,” he said.
Despite not finishing the 2:03 contest, Lynn was smiling easily after the game. For every time baseball can drive you mad, he said, there’s nights like Friday.
“It’s fun,” he said. “When you have stuff like that tonight, that’s why you keep going back. It’s like golf when you hit that drive 310 [yards]. That’s why you come back the next time.”
Lynn moved to 7-4 with the win, and the Cardinals improved to 35-32.