On the second-to-last Thursday of what is frustratingly still Spring Training, the Cardinals hosted the Marlins, as Lance Lynn went up against Jose Fernandez at Roger Dean Stadium. The Cardinals were for some reason the visitors, scoreboard-wise, and they lost, 3-4.
While Lance Lynn pitched well for the Cardinals—4.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 80 pitches with 45 strikes—Jose Fernandez pitched even better: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K. Both pitchers looked close to being ready for the regular season, Fernandez especially.
Scott McGregor relieved Lynn and eventually gave up a go-ahead home run, and Jorge Rondon—who is still in competition for a spot in the Cardinals' bullpen—pitched a (so-called) perfect inning, giving up a screaming line-drive out and two grounders. Kevin Siegrist struck out one in a scoreless eighth inning.
The Marlins struck first, scoring a run in the third inning on a double-play grounder that Descalso and Peralta couldn't quite turn. In the fourth, Miami strung together a few hits: Garrett Jones walked, Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a long RBI double, and Adeiny Hechavarria lined a single to center field, scoring Salty. Lynn then got Christian Yelich to bounce a grounder back to the pitcher's mound, ending the inning.
Lynn seemed to be getting squeezed a bit, but more interesting was his PA against the lefty Garrett Jones. While the eventual result was a walk, Lynn started 0-2 and then threw four straight curve balls, each a ball and each either outside or high and outside. Commanding his curve ball to lefties will help improve Lynn's poor platoon results, and he, Yadi, and the Cardinals know this, and so that's why they're working on it now, in spring training, one assumes.
Which brings me to a quick tangent: Spring training games have a weird turbulence to them, by which I mean that sometimes the goings-on are inherently interesting (Jose Fernandez pitching to Matt Holliday, for example, will never not be exciting), and then things will turn totally irrelevant and boring (Pete Kozma pinch-hitting versus Henry Rodriguez), and then back (Carlos Marmol pitching in the ninth with the tying run on third base). Watching Lynn work on his curve ball to Jones was in itself both engrossing and an example of why these games are ultimately irrelevant.
At any rate, it was knotted at 3-3 till the bottom of the sixth inning, when Marcell Ozuna hit a very long home run to left field off Scott McGregor, giving the Marlins the lead, which they tried to keep and did.
While today's game was mostly determined by pitching, a few of the newer Cardinals did produce some offensive highlights: Peter Bourjos hit a stand-up triple to right, Kolten Wong pinch-hit in the ninth inning for a ground-rule double, and Jhonny Peralta hit a single and a double off Fernandez—not easy to do.
About Jose Fernandez: He is SO charming and SO humble and SO happy and SO insanely good at pitching at SUCH a young age that every start of his has become a sort of smell-the-roses occasion, and it makes me happy that everyone is appreciating what a rare joy he is. It's fun to see people fawn over someone that you think is worth the fawning-over. Some of the admiration during today's game was both heartwarming and surreal: Fernandez signing autographs in the outfield stands while a girl with hilariously purple-candy-stained lips followed him around; Fox Sports Midwest guest Carl Pavano saying over and over to the microphone, "His family must be so proud of how he carries himself."
Probably the most important development today, however, is that winter is finally over, and Rogers Hornsby's wish has once again come true: It's Spring. You can stop staring out your windows, folks.