St. Louis Cardinals: Lance Lynn Makes Season Debut

Oct 4, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Lance Lynn (31) throws a pitch against the Atlanta Braves in the third inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Lance Lynn (31) throws a pitch against the Atlanta Braves in the third inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

A familiar face for St. Louis Cardinals was back on the mound yesterday. Lance Lynn made his season debut against the Chicago Cubs after a stint on the DL following Tommy John surgery.

After Tommy John and many months of rehab, Lance Lynn was finally back on the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals. Yesterday, the righty veteran went up against the World Champion Chicago Cubs and did not disappoint.

In a start reminiscent of what Cardinal fans have come to know him for, Lynn was able to provide quality pitching through five innings of work. His final line on the day was:

5.1 innings, 5 H, 2ER, 1BB, 4 k, 98 pitches

You can never tell how a pitcher is going to come back from Tommy John, but if this is any indication of how Lynn’s season is going to go, then sign me up. Throughout the game, Lance Lynn was able to mix and match his pitches, primarily using his fastball. He included his slider and even included a change-up here and there.

He was able to keep the powerful Cubs line up relatively quiet. In fact, his biggest threat was the opposing pitcher John Lackey. Lackey had two hits off of Lynn; Lynn scattered the rest throughout the game.

What stands out to me in his performance are his strike outs and walks, and the fifth inning. As mentioned above, Lynn was able to strike out four batters and only walk one. Two of his strike outs were courtesy of the reigning NL MVP, Kris Bryant (0-13, 6ks in the series). The other two strike outs belong to Kyle “Cardinal Killer ” Schwarber and Miguel Montero.

There wasn’t anything fancy to the strike outs from Lynn either. He used his best pitch, fastball, effectively. Changed speeds with his sliders and change-up. However, the most important thing he did was locate his pitches. Lynn can have the stuff to blow it by you, but coming off an injury like Tommy John he needed his command to be on point.

On both Kris Bryant strike outs, Lynn was in and out of the zone with his fastball. Used his slider to keep Bryant off balance, and immediately came back with a fastball. A hitter like Bryant certainly will find his groove, but Lynn made him look as bad as he had all series.

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His strike out of Scwarber was just as impressive. For as many times as I have seen Lynn pitch, I can’t ever recall him throwing a change-up for a strike. Yet that’s what he did against Schwarber on his 3rd inning at bat. I’m sure Schwarber was not expecting the change-ups either as one went for a ball and the other for a strike.

If Lynn is progressing towards using a change-up more often in his repertoire, then he will become an even better pitcher than he was prior to Tommy John. He followed both change-ups with a fastball and a slider to finish him off.

By far the most impressive work Lynn was able to accomplish was the fifth inning. For me, the fifth inning is the most nerve wrecking when Lynn pitches. Some how I always feel like he struggles mightily in the fifth inning. Maybe it’s because of going through the lineup the third time, but it always has me holding my breath. I’m sure many Cardinal fans call it a “Lynnplosion” like I do.

However, that’s when Lynn became the workhorse we Cardinal fans know him to be. After a simple ground out by Addison Russell, the wheels began to unhinged a bit. Jason Heyward singled, followed by a Miguel Montero strike out. Then two consecutive singles by Lackey and Jon Jay.

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Heyward scored and Jay’s single and then in stepped Schwarber. Lynn issued his only walk to load the bases up for the reigning MVP, Bryant. It was a move you had to make.

Bryant’s struggles or the have Schwarber beat you. Fortunately for the Cardinals, Lynn was able to get Bryant to line out to Dexter Fowler and escape the jam.

Lynn pitched into the sixth inning by recording the first out on a Ben Zobrist ground out after an Anthony Rizzo double. Rizzo would then score on a ground out by Russell to close the books on a solid performance by Lynn.

Lance Lynn looked every bit of himself yesterday and it has to be a welcoming sight to the Cardinals. To get that kind of quality pitching coming off of Tommy John is tough. However, I do have some questions about Lynn’s use that will affect the rest of the season.

  1. Do the Cardinals have an inning limit on Lynn?
    My guess is yes, but it also depends on how many pitches he has thrown. For instance yesterday, I think he was taken out of the game due to how many pitches he threw. Ninety-eight pitches is a lot for anyone, but even more so coming off his injury.I am definitely encouraged by this game though. If his next starts is a continuation of yesterday, then his workload might increase. If you’re a Cardinals fan you have to be happy.
  2. If Lynn pitches well, but the team falters, will he be a trade candidate to a contender?
    I’d rather not answer this question at all, but it is a possibility. I know three game isn’t a lot to go off of, but say the Cardinals find themselves back big by June, Lynn might fetch a young prospect or two.I would love for him to be in St. Louis a couple more years especially in a rotation with Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes. However, the Cardinals also have a surplus of pitching prospects that might make Lynn expendable. I’ll stay optimistic and say the Cardinals will be in contention and he won’t get dealt, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Next: Cards vs. Cubs Series Takeaways

I am definitely encouraged by Lance Lynn’s performance yesterday. I’ll be looking forward to what he does next time around. If you play fantasy baseball, he might be a sleeper pick up off the waiver wire, assuming he wasn’t drafted. Hopefully we don’t give up the lead next time he pitches! go Cards!