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Lance Lynn returns from the DL; St. Louis Cardinals win 5-1 behind solid outing

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Lance Lynn looked like Lance Lynn tonight. He did walk four batters, but he also didn't allow a run. The offense was not as good as the score indicates, but you take five runs when they give it to you.

Hello Lance.  You were missed.
Hello Lance. You were missed.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It's not entirely accurate to say the Cardinals were fortunate to win tonight's game against the Marlins.  However, I feel no such qualms about saying that the Cardinals were very fortunate to score five runs.  With the help of some Marlins fielding mistakes and batted ball luck, the Cardinals were able to turn one or two runs into five.  But that's baseball.  Some nights, you kill the ball and score none.  Some nights, you barely make any contact and somehow score five.

The first three innings are a pretty good indication of how this game went for the Cardinals, a team that probably doesn't need any luck against a team like the Marlins but received it anyway.  Dan Haren was absolutely dominant in the first two, striking out three batters, getting two to pop out, and the other batter to weakly ground out.  These were two innings were luck was removed from the equation, because the Cardinals' hitters looked pathetic.  The third was different, but not by a lot.  With one out, Pete Kozma was hit by a pitch - his day would get better.  He was sacrificed to second by Lance Lynn.  Kolten Wong then hit a bullet to score Kozma to get the Cardinals lead to 1-0.  I'm not saying this first run was unlucky, but hey if you're the pitcher and you give up one well hit ball and that so happens to cause the only run, it's going to be a frustrating night.  It would get worse for Haren.

Haren wasn't the only one who, whether by their own pitching skills or the ineptitude of the hitters, looked dominant early on in the game.  Lynn also got the first six batters he faced out, including two strikeouts and three groundouts (including a broken bat one by Giancarlo Stanton that was a well-executed pitch inside).  His streak was ruined by a bunt single by Adeiny Hechavarria, who I'm going to say was somewhat lucky to get granted a single.  Yadier Molina made a wide and not particularly great throw, but from my eyes he would have been out were it accurate.  Hechavarria made it to second on the play and the leadoff man was on.  He got JT Realmuto - which that's an MLB the Show made up name if I've ever seen one - to chop his ball to Carpenter and keep Hechavarria on second.  He then made the bold move of walking Haren, who is a good hitter for a pitcher and laid off a tough ball four to take his base.  He followed that up with a pop out by Dee Gordon.  Derek Dietrich hit a ball that I was certain would bloop over Wong's head, but Wong used his above average speed to reach it before it could do that.

The game continued back-and-forth with scoreless innings from both pitchers.  Neither pitcher remained as dominant as they started the game, but hitters still weren't really hitting the ball well.  The Cardinals threatened in the 4th when Jason Heyward singled and Molina reached second on a throwing error when they tried to get a double play.  (Yeah it feels weird typing that Molina avoided a double play on a groundball).  They also threatened in the 5th when both Kozma and Wong singled, but Matt Carpenter unfortunately is still June Matt Carpenter and not April Matt Carpenter and struck out.

Similarly, in the bottom half of the inning, the Marlins had a man on second - thanks to a walk by Lynn which was an issue tonight - but Lynn struck out Gordon to end the inning.  Lynn also had issues in the 6th when he walked Stanton on four pitches.  Admittedly, he pretty clearly was pitching around him after he received a questionable ball to start the plate appearance.  But there's no question he wasn't trying to walk Justin Bour, but he ended up walking him on five pitches.  No matter, Lynn recovered quickly and struck out Marcell Ozuna in his finest pitching performance of the day, hitting the corners on two of the strikes and getting him to chase for the strikeout.

Now the seventh inning is the inning of nightmares for pitchers everywhere.  Jon Jay had a Jon Jay single, which is to say it was a bloop single.  Randal Grichuk followed with a single of his own - this one was hard hit.  Now, here's where things got weird baseball-y.  Kozma, after failing on his first two bunt attempts, laid down a beauty.  The catcher ran after the ball, threw it to a still running towards first Gordon, and Gordon couldn't catch it for some reason.  With some good baserunning, Jay was able to score on the play and it was first and second again with nobody out.  This time Greg Garcia bunted.  He also laid down a good bunt.  Mike Dunn, who replaced Haren after Kozma's PA, looked towards third and then looked towards second and then threw it to first.  It was too late and Garcia was also safe.

Dunn then faced Wong with the bases loaded.  In the nine-pitch plate appearance, Wong was able to work a walk - this was the type of walk you earn and not one where the pitcher hands you the base.  Carpenter came up and... struck out again.  The Marlins changed pitchers for Mark Reynolds, which worked.  Kind of.  Reynolds hit a pop fly in between second and right field.  Gordon caught it although Stanton should have called him off, because he didn't have great momentum to throw the ball.  Kozma tagged on the play and although the throw beat him, he made a slick slide to avoid the tag and score another run.  In all the Cardinals had scored from an error, a walk, and and a popup caught by an infielder.

After Belisle pitching a spotless eight with three straight groundouts, the Cardinals struck again.  This one was certainly due to batted ball luck.  Grichuk hit a ball that refused to go foul down the third base line and his speed easily made it impossible to throw him out anyway.  He then stole second in the middle of Kozma's PA.  Kozma hit a bloop single of his own that had no business being a hit if baseball was a fair game scoring Grichuk for their fifth run of the night.

In the 9th Carpenter walked this time to lead off the inning but was removed by a double play ball by Heyward.  Carlos Villanueva had a shaky 9th, giving up a homer, two flyballs, and a lineout.  But at the end of it, he only allowed one run and the Cardinals finished with a win.

WPA Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Notes

- It's weird to say we held Stanton in check in a game where he went 1-3 with a walk, but the walk seemed partially intentional at least (though Lynn walking the next guy on five pitches makes that somewhat questionable) and his two outs were a strikeout and a broken bat groundout.

- Request: regardless of the situation of who is starting in that particular game, I really don't want to see Mark Reynolds batting 3rd in a lineup.  Or 4th.  Thankfully, the first two spots in the order seem out of the question for Matheny.

- I guess Haren was due for a game like this.  He had a 3.19 ERA with a 4.44 FIP and a 4.40 xFIP.

- Lynn's final line: 6 IP, 2 hits, 6 Ks, 4 BBs

Tomorrow the Cardinals begin a weekend series with the Chicago Cubs in St. Louis.  John Lackey faces off against Jake Arietta.  Despite the fact that the pitching matchup doesn't favor the Cards, this is baseball we're talking about here and the Cardinals have 48 wins!