Slumps are inevitable throughout a six-month baseball season, but when they happen in April, every aspect is magnified. A slump right out of the gate can’t hide within a larger sample size like it could in July. Fans are especially attentive at the beginning of a new season, and the Cardinals rotten start to the year has allowed imaginations to run wild–with no context for the struggles, fans have been left to wonder how bad this team might be.
With the team returning to St. Louis Monday, fresh off being swept by the Yankees in the Bronx, the Cardinals desperately needed things to normalize–they feel they have a talented group, and they just needed a chance to press the reset button.
Lance Lynn was more than happy to do the pressing.
“It’s the biggest win possible in April,” Lynn said with his customary grin. “We’re gonna be alright.”
Lynn (1-1, 3.12 ERA) dazzled Monday night, making seven shutout innings look totally effortless as the Cardinals beat the Pirates 2-1 in a game that lasted only two hours and 14 minutes. Lynn surrendered only three hits Monday, delivering the Cardinals from a three-game losing streak for his first win of the season.
“You wanna be known as the stopper,” Lynn said. “When you go through a rotation and you see that we’ve not pitched the way we’re capable, have not played the way we’re capable, you wanna be the guy that kind of gets us going and stops it. And now we can go, and hopefully that will breed into the next start and so on and we can find a rhythm here.”
Lynn’s rhythm was fluid throughout his outing Monday, as he appeared locked in step with his defense behind him all the way. An area of concern early this season for St. Louis, the gloves were handy as Greg Garcia and Randal Grichuk both stood out in particular for multiple defensive gems.
“Whenever you get plays like that, it’s always awesome,” Lynn said. “Then you get the runs you need, and the bullpen does their job, that’s what winning teams do. Hopefully we can keep that going.”
Helping instill renewed crispness into the Cardinals defense, Lynn’s pacing was on point. Kolten Wong, whose third inning home run put the Cardinals on the board first, expressed how energized the team gets to defend behind Lynn when he’s on his game.
“It’s awesome. You see how he’s grabbing the ball, he’s getting back on, he’s ready to go,” Wong said. “That keeps us, defensively, on our toes, ready to go at all times. You see Greg make amazing plays tonight, Grich made amazing plays–that’s all because of how Lance kept us going. He kept us in the game at all times, there was no hanging out time, we were ready to go.”
With the exception of some drama in the top of the ninth as Seung-Hwan Oh allowed the Pirates to score a run before closing out his first save of the year, the Cardinals played arguably their most complete game of the young season. For Lynn personally, that was undoubtedly the case.
“We lost the first two games that I started this year,” Lynn said. “I don’t know if you know anything about me, but I really hate losing, and especially when I don’t do my job. It was time for me to get going and get back on being capable of what I’m doing.”
Lynn doesn’t like to lose, and he made sure the Cardinals didn’t Monday. If the rest of the team can maintain his energy in the coming days, the Cardinals may be able to quickly dig out of their early hole to become the contending team they expected to be.