ST. LOUIS — When Lance Lynn used to stomp around the mound when an inning went awry, many people got a bad impression, including some in his own clubhouse. He looked like a hothead who could not maintain his cool.
Now in the midst of the best stretch of starts of his career, Lynn says he is as fiery as ever. But because he’s performing so well, some things might be overlooked.
"It’s funny how when you’re doing good, people let you do things that you’ve been doing the whole time and no one says anything anymore," Lynn said Friday night after the Cardinals beat the Padres, 4-2.
He said this with a devil-may-care grin that was just impish enough to make you wonder if he was being totally forthright. But that’s OK. There are times — after wins — when he does not mind having a little fun in his postgame media scrums.
If he tweaks anyone — such as those who have criticized his mound demeanor — so be it. He knows what matters most is pitching well. If it takes a little well-placed anger to do that, you can bet he will.
Against the Padres, such motivation was found in a comebacker by rookie Rymer Liriano that smacked Lynn in the right shin and resulted in the Padres’ first hit. Time was called so Lynn could be checked out, but what he was feeling was not pain.
"Pissed me right off is what it did, in all honesty," Lynn said. "A guy I’ve never seen before, wasn’t expecting him to swing and he hit a ball off my shin. And I don’t like it."
Lynn wasn’t exactly struggling before taking the shot off his right leg, having retired the first four Padres. But once peeved off, he retired nine of the next 11 batters before running into his only real rough spot of the night. That was the fifth, when the Padres scored their only run on three consecutive hits with one out.
In the past, this was the kind of inning that could get away from the big right-hander. Instead of trying to make a pitch, he would try to throw a fastball by whoever was hitting. Often it didn’t work. On this night, he still went with fastballs, but they were well-placed. One struck out Tommy Medica (one of four times he K-ed in the game) and another got three-hole hitter Seth Smith to pop up.
How difficult has it been to channel his fire in the right way?
"I find that I use it very well, but other people don’t like it," he said. "There’s a fine line between being productively emotional and being unproductively emotional. I feel like I’ve found that line and stayed to the right side of it."
Better than in past seasons?
"I always thought I was on the right side of the line, but other people thought differently," Lynn said.
This kind of line — a 1.97 ERA and 5-2 record over his past eight starts — figures to go a long way in changing the thinking of many of those people.
— Pat Neshek. He’s become so reliable out of the bullpen that it seemed strange when he gave up a two-out, two-strike homer to Yasmani Grandal in the ninth. But then he gave up a long double to Chris Nelson and you realize that well, maybe Neshek isn’t a machine. He was able to earn his fourth save without further incident, though, and keep his ERA under 1, at 0.88. Neshek was given the ninth inning because Trevor Rosenthal was unavailable after a long outing Thursday.
— Matt Adams. No Cardinals player should be more pleased to be home. With four hits in his first two games back at Busch, Adams already has surpassed his output on a 3-for-23 road trip. Hot hitting at home is nothing new for the big first baseman. He is far and away the team’s leading hitter at Busch with a .348 average (69 for 198). Jhonny Peralta entered Friday night with the second-best home average on the Cardinals, at .276.
— Yadier Molina. After catching another bullpen session, the six-time All-Star catcher gave the media an update Friday five weeks after surgery on his right thumb. Molina says he has no pain in his thumb, and hopes to start hitting and throwing without a brace next week. He admits watching his teammates is tough, but he can do it. "I bite my nails," he said.
Asked when is his goal to return, Molina said, "Right now." But he quickly added the decision is up to the medical staff and "they say my thumb needs time."
— Peralta’s vertical jump. Listed at 6 feet 2, 215 pounds, Peralta has displayed better athleticism with the Cardinals than was advertised. He moves easily in the field and shows good hands. What he did not show was enough leaping ability. Peralta was in ideal position to catch a line drive by Jace Peterson and timed his jump just right. If he could have gotten up a few inches higher — say 15 instead of 10 — he could have done more than tip the hit with his glove. Peterson instead ended up with a single and then came around to score the Padres’ first run.
— Jon Jay’s bruises. Already dealing with a sore left wrist, Jay will have more body parts to ice after twice getting hit by pitches from Padres starter Tyson Ross. Jay also was plunked two nights ago in Miami and has moved into a tie for the team lead in HBPs with Matt Holliday, with 12 apiece. Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez leads the NL in getting hit, with 13 (six by the Cardinals). He has nearly 200 more plate appearances than Jay.
— A.J. Pierzynski’s line in the box score. He went 0 for 3 his first three times up but he easily could have been 3 for 3. In his first at-bat, he sliced a pop to shallow left that almost dropped. And even though it didn’t, it might have scored a run anyway if Holliday had been more aggressive on third base. Pierzynski shot hard grounders up the middle in his next two trips, but the Padres had shifted shortstop Alexi Amarista behind second and he converted both into forceouts at second. Pierzynski went up the middle again in the eighth, but this time the line drive went to the second-base side of the infield for a leadoff single.