ST. LOUIS — If the Cardinals’ starters are looking for a slogan to define their work this season, here’s a suggestion: If you can’t shut ’em out, don’t show up.
Friday night at Busch Stadium, it was Lance Lynn’s turn to put up the zeroes, and he did so in the runs and the hits columns. The big right-hander didn’t allow a hit until the sixth and worked eight shutout innings before Trevor Rosenthal struck out the side to close out a 1-0 victory over the Washington Nationals.
The shutout was the fourth in the Cardinals’ past five games and upped their major-league-leading total to 14 for the season, one fewer than they had in all of 2013. It also was their second 1-0 victory decided by a homer this week and the fourth time they’ve won 1-0 this season.
Manager Mike Matheny said Lynn’s curveball might have been the best he’s seen, but Lynn credited his success to fastball command.
"In the bullpen, I felt pretty comfortable with where both the two-seam and four-seam were going," he said. "(The fastball’s) my pitch. When I have the two and the four going, it opens up both sides of the plate and keeps them honest where you don’t have to worry about them leaning over to one side or another."
Lynn retired the first 16 Nationals before Jose Lobaton grounded a 2-2 fastball about three feet inside the third-base line for a single, then advanced to second when Matt Holliday couldn’t pick up the ball in left field. Jayson Werth got Washington’s only other hit, a single in the seventh.
With Lynn at 111 pitches, Matheny said the decision to turn over to Rosenthal for the ninth was not difficult. But if Lynn had not shut out the Yankees three starts ago for his first career complete game, taking him out of this one likely would have been tougher.
"Possibly so," Matheny said. "We had an opportunity to get him out of the game and not run his pitch count any higher than it was, which was still fairly high."
Lynn claimed he would not have lobbied any harder to stay in even if he had not shut out the Yankees.
"Every game when he comes in and tells me I’m done, I tell him I’m fine to keep going," Lynn said.
Still, he was content with his night’s work, and understandably so.
"If you’d had told me I was going to throw eight shutout when I showed up today, I would have told you you were a liar," he said. "It’s that time of the year where you have to get over that hump, and some days are better than others."
For the Cardinals, it practically takes a shutout to make for one of those better days.
— Matt Adams. On his first swing after coming off the disabled list earlier in the day, the big first baseman slugged a 419-foot homer over the center-field fence. On his second swing, he grounded sharply up the middle for a single on the first pitch of his second at-bat. And on his third swing (and fourth pitch he saw), he grounded out to second baseman Danny Espinosa, who was stationed in shallow center field with a shift on. The 2-for-3 night lifted Adams’ team-leading batting average to .330 and gave his dad, who was in attendance, an early Father’s Day present.
— Trevor Rosenthal. He seems to have pitched his way past his early-season difficulties. He earned his 18th save by striking out the side and allowing only one baserunner, who reached on second baseman Kolten Wong’s error. His fastball reached 98 mph and his changeup continues to emerge as a strikeout pitch. Rosenthal picked up two more K’s on changeups. The way he is pitching made lifting Lynn an even easier decision for Matheny.
"We’re going for the win and we gotta go with everything we’ve got," Matheny said. "Rosie is well rested and pitching with a lot of confidence."
— Jhonny Peralta. The closest the Nationals came to a hit in the fifth inning was when Jayson Werth hit a hard shot to the left side of the infield. But Peralta made a nice backhanded stop and fired to first a half-step ahead of Werth. Peralta has made only one error in his past 379 innings.
— Holliday. For the first time this season at Busch Stadium, he did not reach base. Holliday went 0 for 3 on two groundouts and a pop-up, dropping his average to .261 and bringing his streak of reaching base at home to a close at 30 games.
— Blockbuster trade chances. Forty days remain before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline and the market has yet to take much shape around the majors. That is, the rumors have not been cranked up yet. Even when the speculation starts, don’t look for the Cardinals to be very involved based on what GM John Mozeliak said Friday.
"At this point, we believe in the club we have and we’re not really starting to think where we need to go get help," Mozeliak said. "The way you look at the deadline, ‘Is there some incremental way to improve. And if so, what’s the cost?’"
The key word there is incremental, which can be interpreted to mean "not major." One possibility might be a power bat off the bench, though rookie Randal Grichuk is getting a chance to fill that role.
— Oscar Taveras. As expected, the prized prospect was sent back to the minors when Adams was activated. Mozeliak said Taveras could have made the decision to send him down more difficult if he had hit better than .189 in his 13-day call-up.
"Part of it is that adjustment (from the minors to majors)," Matheny said. "This is a different level from where he was before. He learned a lot; he’s got more to learn."
Matheny added that Taveras asked good questions and the two had a "good conversation" when the skipper delivered the news about his demotion.