Lynn stays zen as Cards move lead in NL Central back to four games

By earning his 15th win when he wasn't his sharpest, Lance Lynn showed again that he's no longer the temperamental hothead who could let a bad break or two turn into a bad game.

Darren Hauck/AP

MILWAUKEE — With their 5-3 victory over the Brewers on Saturday night, the Cardinals moved their lead in the NL Central back to four games. In light of that advantage, let’s check out four positive developments that bode well for St. Louis maintaining its hold on first place:

— By earning his 15th win when he wasn’t his sharpest, Lance Lynn showed again that he’s no longer the temperamental hothead who could let a bad break or two turn into a bad game. Four pitches into his first inning, the Cardinals had made three errors and the Brewers had two runs. But Lynn stayed the course and did not allow another run in the inning. It was typical of a night when he allowed a lot of baserunners but not many runs.

"When you don’t have your good stuff in a win and you only give up one earned run, that’s a beautiful thing," Lynn said.

— Rookie Oscar Taveras made the most of his second start of the week by hitting a well-located pitch from Kyle Lohse over the right-field fence for his third homer, a two-run shot that gave the Cardinals a three-run lead. Manager Mike Matheny said before the game that he noticed Taveras had an "edge" in the batter’s box when he came through with a run-scoring pinch-hit Friday and again when he returned to the dugout. Matheny took both as encouraging signs.

"He came back afterward and high-fived me and there was a little bit of edge," Matheny said. "I said, good for you, man. I’m with you. Let’s go. Now take off."

Taveras said not playing every day has been hard but he’s not complaining.

"I understand what the team is looking for," he said via a translator. "I will keep working hard when I get opportunities and will do the best for the team."

— Righty reliever Carlos Martinez continued his recent run during which he has been just about as dominating as he was last October. Maybe it’s the return of Yadier Molina or maybe it’s just that time of year. Whatever the reason, Martinez has not allowed a run in his past seven outings covering 7 2/3 innings.

Entering with two out in the seventh, Martinez struck out Ryan Braun with a curveball looking. Then, left in for the eighth, he got Aramis Ramirez to ground out, struck out doubles machine Jonathan Lucroy looking at three curves and, after giving up a double to Khris Davis on a 99-mph fastball, struck out Lyle Overbay.  

"He’s in a good place right now," said Matheny, pleased that Martinez’s effort allowed Pat Neshek to get another day’s rest.

— After sitting out two days to rest a sore oblique, Matt Adams knocked a two-run, no-doubter home run in his first at-bat to give the Cardinals an early lead. Just as encouraging was a long fly he hit to left field in his final at-bat.

"I squared that one up, too," he said. "I know my swing is where it needs to be when I’m driving the ball to left."

Adams said he tweaked his side in his final at-bat Wednesday night and did nothing but take light swings for the next two days. By the end of Friday, though, the Cardinals felt he would be ready for Saturday. Besides resting his body, the time off also allowed him to give his mind a break, too.

"This late in the season, mental days off would do anybody good," he said. "I wanted to be out there playing with my teammates. It felt good to get back out there today."

Matheny had a sense from watching Adams in batting practice that he might break out a 7-for-52 slump that preceded the injury.

"He put on a show in BP," Matheny said. "I could tell he was feeling it. We were hoping it would translate."

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Something usually clicks for Adams at Miller Park. In 12 games here, he is hitting .348/.388/.630 with four homers. "I see the ball good here," he said with a smile.

2 UP

— Matheny’s challenges. Braun appeared so clearly out at the plate that a review should not have been needed but once umpire Jerry Meals called Braun safe, Molina immediately signaled for Matheny to challenge. And in about a minute, the call was reversed. It was a boost to the Cardinals, too, because it kept the Brewers from taking a 3-2 lead in the first. After "losing" 14 of his first 16 challenges, Matheny has "won" seven of his past nine.

— Jason Motte. While it’s been a trying season on the field in his return from Tommy John surgery, he has continued to make a difference off the field. Motte’s teammates recognized the work he’s done for cancer support by voting him a finalist for the Marvin Miller award, a players-union honor that combines community service with on-the-field performance. Each team nominates a player that fans can vote for at Voting runs through Sept. 12 when six finalists will be named.


— Lynn’s pitch efficiency. Maybe his superb second half has spoiled us because Lynn allowed only one earned run in six innings and yet it seemed like he struggled. Perhaps that was because he allowed at least two baserunners in four innings, thanks in part to four walks and a hit batter.

Lynn also struck out six — including the side in the second — and threw 114 pitches, the same number he needed in his previous start to get through six innings. Still, it qualified as another quality start for the big right-hander, giving him 10 in his past 11 starts. The one that wasn’t was just one out shy of being quality.

— Matt Holliday’s first inning. One reason Lynn threw more pitches than he should have was that the Cardinals made three errors in the first inning, including two by Holliday on one play. The first came when he mishandled Braun’s single to left that allowed the Brewers second run to score and Braun to take second. Once he got to the ball, Holliday made a bad throw to the plate that allowed Braun to reach third. That, however, did nothing more than put Holliday in position to turn a double play when he caught Ramirez’s fly and threw out Braun, who initially was called safe.

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