(BaseballStL) — Any team steaming toward postseason play needs a stopper in the rotation; a shutdown guy that can hold any offense in check. It’s a pitcher that no matter when the start, no matter who the opponent, his club can mark that date down as a likely victory.
He stops a skid. He centers a drifting team. The buck stops with him.
Every contending team needs one, and Cardinals seem to have found two.
Adam Wainwright has long been the anchor in the rotation, often topping leaderboards across various categories in the league. In the second half, however, the Cardinals’ ace has worn number 31.
Lance Lynn has gone 5-3 since the break, posting an ERA below 2.2. He finished August with a 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio, holding hitters to a .240 average. He’s allowed more than two earned runs only twice in 11 second half starts (three runs both times), and has gone six innings or deeper every start but one.
His three losses all came when he allowed one earned run.
One of those was Thursday, when the 27-year-old went eight innings, surrendering the lone run on a misplayed ball in center field. He struck out six while allowing three hits.
While Wainwright’s second half ERA ballooned to 4.29, Lynn made quality start after quality start. Opponents hit .275 against Wainwright in the second half, and his K/BB ratio fell from 4.2 to 2.0. Still, the Cardinals kept rolling behind Lynn.
Michael Wacha went down, Shelby Miller struggled for consistency and Justin Masterson pitched poorly enough to be sent to the bullpen. The 6’5, 240 pound Lynn was a rock in choppy waters, and for a time, St. Louis’ chance at a stretch run seemed tethered to him.
Lynn's top-10 MLB rankings
ERA: 7th (2.73)
Wins: T6th (15)
Hits allowed: 5th (167)
Earned Runs: T3rd (56)
Thursday’s performance was another in a line of statements by Lynn that the second half will not seehim wither. The Cardinals may have lost, but the big righty demonstrated once again his ability to control an oppposing lineup. That’s bad news for hitters, as Wainwright’s bad days have still been mostly positive for the Cardinals.
He’s managed five wins as he fought through a “dead-arm phase,” and still has a chance for 20 victories if his performance in Milwaukee indicates he has found his way out of the funk.
He closed out the series with the Brewers by going nine innings on 100 pitches, allowing one run on seven hits.
It was reminiscent of early-season Wainwright, who was arguably the NL’s best pitcher and inarguably one of baseball’s top five. If that pitcher returns, the Cardinals will finish with two top-10 hurlers and two young arms behind them who seem to be returning to 2013 form.
For Lynn, it’s a reality that is a few years in the making. The club has been patiently waiting for him to put it all together, and he’s done it just in time to keep the playoff hopes from falling apart.