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Homers and Sloppy Play Sink Lynn, Cards to Bottom of Central

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Lynn surrenders three long balls in 8-3 loss, Cards have now have dropped three in a row

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

30.

That’s how many runs the Cardinals have given up over their last three games.

To even sniff that total of runs against you’d have to go back to 2014, where the Cardinals allowed 26 runs across three games in May (5/10/14-5/12/14). To get to 30 runs, we have to crawl all the way back to 2010 where the Cardinals surrendered 31 runs across three games against the Houston Astros during the first week of August. (For what it’s worth, this streak came two days after Lance Berkman was traded from the Astros to the Yankees at the 2010 trade deadline).

The 8-3 loss tonight kicks off the first losing streak of the season for the Cardinals, as they have dropped three in a row. The road doesn’t get any easier, as the Cardinals face ace Max Scherzer tomorrow as they try to avoid a sweep before a trip east to New York.

Before we look ahead to brighter skies, reflection on the past is reluctantly needed.

Lynn

After an extremely encouraging first start back from Tommy John surgery, the initial innings of this outing had us comparing the once 18-game winner to shades of his pre-surgery self.

Lynn retired seven of the first eight batters he faced, relinquishing a walk to a player who has been on base 10 times in merely two games, Bryce Harper. The third inning is where things got a little hairy.

After Lynn walked pitcher Gio Gonzalez on four pitches, Eaton grounded a ball to Diaz’s backhand at short that resulted in both a miserable defensive play, and one of the worst calls I have seen an umpire make in a long time (rightfully overturned by replay, even if it was initially in the Cardinals’ favor). Regardless, the relevant point is that this was one of two errors in the game by shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who had 16 errors in 2016 and the second lowest fielding percentage among qualified shortstops.

When Lynn struck out Trea Turner’s fill-in Wilmer Difo one at bat later, it should have been the third out of the inning. Instead, the fly ball revolutionist Daniel Murphy laced a ball into right, quickly erasing the only Cardinal lead in the game.

Lynn would proceed to give up three long home runs across two innings. Two off the bats of Jayson Werth and Matt Wieters, on 1-1 fastballs. Both pitches were unsurprisingly up in the strike zone and easily tagged over the wall. Murphy’s homer an inning later was a hanging changeup, dead center of the plate.

As with most bad starts, Lynn struggled when he left pitches up in the zone. Even though I’m not encouraged by the outing, if you want a positive spin on the start, mull over these three points:

  1. This is his second start since Tommy John surgery. We need to be patient with his feel for pitches.
  2. Classic misleading box score situation. Lynn’s four walks look bad, but three came to Bryce Harper, who currently has an OBP over .500. That guy is really, really good.
  3. Subjective - but if you watch Lynn’s mannerisms after each home run, he knows they are mistake pitches. I would be more concerned if Lynn was perplexed as to how such solid contact was being put

Final line - 5 IP / 5 H / 6 R / 4 ER / 4 BB / 4 K / 101 pitches / 57 strikes

Miguel Socolovich and Seung Hwan Oh combined for ‘mop up’ duty after the Cardinals went down 6-2. Although technically a one swing game with that score, the way the game was progressing, lifeless is a good adjective to describe the now 2-6 unit.

Oh’s start to 2017 has been mildly concerning.

Even with Matheny reiterating that the Final Boss will remain the closer, even with Rosenthal’s stellar debut, we haven’t seen a clean outing this season. Just one would instill the slightest bit of confidence that this bullpen isn’t in as deep of a hole as it presently seems.

Grichuk, Martinez, Diaz

With my narration of Lynn’s outing, you wouldn’t think much else was positive, but I always like when a hitter goes the opposite way on a home run. Randal Grichuk took Nats’ starter Gio Gonzalez deep to right in the fourth inning to tie the game at two. This technically started the home run parade that the Nationals capitalized over the next two innings.

Jose Martinez put together the first multi-hit game of his career with a pair of singles. Dexter Fowler led off the game with a hard double from the right side and came around to score on a sac fly by Yadier Molina. There wasn’t much to be pleased by offensively from the Redbirds despite the small ball in the first inning. Three runs won’t be enough when the club boots manageable plays left and right.

Speaking of errors...

Aledmys Diaz offensively has been the most consistent piece of this lineup. He took journeyman Joe Blanton deep for his third home run of the season, a no doubt shot to right field.

Fellow writer Ben Markham pointed out in a recent piece that Diaz is actually making less contact in the zone and swinging more outside of the zone. Not encouraging, but the results have been great so far.

Notes

  • According to Fangraph’s WPA (Win Probability Added), Stephen Piscotty was the biggest liability offensively as he went hitless over four at bats with two strikeouts. Even the move up to fourth in the order hasn’t been enough to get him going. Fangraph’s WPA model also said the play with the greatest impact on the outcome of the game was the two-run single by Daniel Murphy in the third inning (+.205 WPA added).
  • Matt Carpenter sat out today’s bout after experiencing some back tightness. Very concerning at first, as this is the same issue that kept him from participating in the World Baseball Classic, however, he did pinch hit and draw a walk in the ninth inning. With the new 10-day DL, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the club sidelining Carpenter for a short amount of time in hopes of getting him on track. Back issues tend not to magically disappear and I have a feeling we don’t have perfect information as to what is going on.