Lance Lynn pitched one of the best games of his life today and I didn't start noticing until the 4th inning. Up until that point, I was concerned about Lynn's rising pitch count and mediocre performance. He had struck out two batters - one of which was the pitcher - and walked none, but he had been on the brink of walking seemingly every hitter.
In the first, Denard Span popped out to start the game on the first pitch. Then six of the next eight hitters ran Lynn into a 3-2 count. Part of it was great patience by the Nationals, part of it was the umpire squeezing Lynn, and part of it was that Lynn was this close to the strike zone on most his pitches. Through four innings, he had 59 pitches despite having faced only 12 batters all game. I should mention that I noticed he had a no-hitter in the 4th, but in the 4th, I felt he was still lucky to an extent. In my scorecard, I have three flyballs, three groundouts, two lineouts, two popouts, and two strikeouts. (One of the grounders was an excellent play by Jhonny Peralta that probably should have been a hit) That's obviously not bad whatsoever, but it's definitely not "perfect game" good.
On pitch #60 in the 5th inning, Lynn was a different pitcher. It won't show up in the box score, but that's what I saw. Adam LaRoche struck out on a 1-2 count followed by an identical result from Ryan Zimmerman. His no-hit bid ended in the 6th on a slow roller - and I cannot emphasize enough how frustrating it is that THAT was the first hit - that was on the third base line. Matt Carpenter didn't have a chance because of his positioning (Lobotan was left-handed so some sort of a defensive shift had to be in play).
In Lynn's last four innings, he had six strikeouts and no walks. In fact, despite the high pitch count, he didn't walk anybody in the entire game. He ended up allowing two hits all game with 8 Ks and zero walks over 8 IP. There is an argument he could have been left in the game for the 9th inning, but he had 111 pitches with three lefties coming to the plate. Trevor Rosenthal came into the game and struck out the side, with an error by Kolten Wong in between giving him four outs in the inning essentially.
You'll notice I didn't talk about the Cardinals hitting and I'd like to spend as few words on that as possible. Thank God for Matt Adams as he went 2-3 with a home run providing the only run of the game. Otherwise, it was ugly. Jordan Zimmerman was good, but the Cardinals played a large part in it. They decided to have an aggressive hitting approach. They basically came to the plate and would have swung earlier than the first pitch if that was possible. Zimmerman threw 76 pitches through eight innings. Like Lynn, Zimmerman got better as the game went along. Through five innings, he had struck out only two batters with one walk and one home run allowed. So it was a frustrating game to say the least, especially later when the Cards never faltered in swinging early and often. I honestly don't know how Zimmerman even managed to walk a batter the Cards were so aggressive.
- The Cardinals pitching was great and sometimes that's all you need if it's that good. Well it was the only thing that the Cardinals had. In addition to the hitting, they had two ugly errors by Matt Holliday and Kolten Wong.
- Yadier Molina was the worst culprit for me in terms of his approach. He came to the plate three times and saw six pitches. SIX PITCHES! And he swung at everyone of them. No wonder he never walks, he doesn't give pitchers the chance.
- Lastly, two announcing notes: Dan McLaughlin said "I bet you'd like to see more power" and then Matt Adams hit a home run. He also said something about fearing a double play and the next pitch was a double play. But he (and Ricky) never once mentioned that Lynn had a perfect game going.
- ADDED after posting: I can't believe I forgot Matheny made a double switch again. But this was one actually a good one! When putting Rosenthal in the game, he took out Jon Jay for Peter Bourjos. Jay had made the last out of the previous inning so this double switch made all kinds of sense.
Tomorrow the Cardinals face the Nationals again in the second game of the three-game series. It's Shelby Miller versus Stephen Strasburg. Well, I can't be the only one not terrible optimistic about tomorrow. Consider 70 percent of it due to Strasburg and 30 percent due to Miller.