ST. LOUIS — As tempting as it may be to send Game 1 starter Adam Wainwright back to the mound for Sunday’s Game 4 on just three days’ rest, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny will give the ball to righthander Lance Lynn.
Under more dire circumstances, however, Matheny said things could have gone differently.
“If you ever have a chance and you’re in a spot where it’s an elimination game, you typically do give your ace a chance, if it’s at all possible,” Matheny said. “Right now it’s a situation where it’s going to most likely be Lance Lynn pitching Game 4. And we know that Lance has also been a guy that can pitch in big situations. And we look forward to getting Adam back there on regular rest.”
Lynn went 15-10 with a 3.97 ERA in 33 regular-season starts. In three postseason appearances (two starts), he’s 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA. He gave up just two runs in 5 ⅓ innings in the Cardinals’ Game 4 win over the Dodgers in the NLCS.
The Cardinals came into the series knowing they would be leaning on their pitching. Through the first two games, St. Louis’s pitching staff has recorded 19 strikeouts with a 3.80 ERA.
“It comes down to pitching when you get into this part of the year,” Matheny said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have some very solid pitching. And the timely hitting, that’s what we talk about. You need those components. The great pitching, timely hitting, and the defense on a consistent basis. The days we haven’t had our defense, I think we’ve seen what’s happenedFor the most part, our pitchers are showing up and giving us a chance.”
Only four catchers have won six or more Gold Glove awards: Ivan Rodriguez (13), Johnny Bench (10), Bob Boone (seven), and Jim Sundberg (six). That Cardinal Yadier Molina is on the verge of joining that club doesn’t surprise Matheny.
For the fifth time in the past six seasons, he allowed the fewest stolen bases in the league (26). He gunned down 43.5 percent of the runners who tested him (the second-best percentage in baseball). His 3.17 catcher’s ERA was the league’s third best.
“He tries to figure out, whether it’s throwing, whether it’s calling a game, whether it’s just the management of all things that are happening on the field,” Matheny said. “He’s not a complacent person.”
The Cardinals were able to ease slugger Allen Craig back after a Lisfranc injury that sidelined him for seven weeks by using him as their designated hitter in the first two games. They’re still getting a read on how ready he is to play the field.
Matheny said he didn’t want to put Craig in Busch Stadium's cavernous outfield, but Craig did take ground balls Friday.
“Just beginning the movements,” Matheny said. “We’re not pushing this too hard and too fast.
“We’re very excited about what we’re seeing with him at the plate and that’s the main thing. And obviously having the ability to throw him into the DH spot in Boston was what we were hoping for. And he put together some good at-bats for us.”
Hitting in the cleanup spot in the first two games, Craig went 2 for 7 with a pair of singles, a walk, and two strikeouts. With the DH spot gone for the next three games, Matheny would like to find a way to keep Craig’s bat in the lineup.
“Defensively we’ll take whatever we can get,” Matheny said.
“Every day is another step. Tomorrow we’ll get him to take more ground balls and get him moving. “He also has the potential to possibly play in the outfield. So we’re giving him a little more work and exposure out thereRight now we’re not rushing it to where we feel we could put him in a spot to where he compromises his health and he goes backwards and we can’t use him either as a pinch hitter or potentially as a DH again.”