Cards grind through illnesses, slump
Right-hander Lance Lynn had a sore back. Right fielder Carlos Beltran was sick. Shortstop Rafael Furcal's bat had been ill, but his glove was fine.
Those three, along with stout relief from left-hander Marc Rzepczynski and right-hander Jason Motte, who each induced a double play in the last two innings, brought the Cardinals at least a breath of fresh air from the stagnation that had accompanied their decline to the .500 mark. The Cardinals edged the Chicago White Sox 1-0 to avoid falling under the break-even mark for the first time this year.
Lynn, who surely will be among the National League starters for the All-Star Game, posted his 10th win, minutes after New York Mets right-hander R.A. Dickey recorded his 10th. For the second straight start, Lynn, in his first year in the Cardinals' rotation, notched his strikeout high.
From the 11 he had in Houston last week, Lynn fanned 12 in 7 1/3 innings, including three men in the fifth after White Sox right fielder Alex Rios led off with a triple.
"The composure he has for a young pitcher is very impressive," said manager Mike Matheny.
"That fifth inning ... there's not many guys that get out of that spot like he did. That's the game, right there. You either have that kind of horsepower or you don't.
"He did a terrific job and he didn't even feel his best going in. He was a little tight (back), and we just watched him inning by inning."
Lynn said he actually had been bothered by some back lower back tightness in both those last two starts, but, clearly, his strikeout totals haven't been affected. His three strikeouts in the fifth inning Wednesday came, he said, when he drew upon his reserves. "You always leave a little bit in the tank in case you need it," Lynn said.
Beltran, whose 4-year-old daughter had been sick, was under the weather himself, and Matheny said he almost scratched Beltran five minutes before the first pitch. Instead, Beltran hit a 442-foot homer, his 19th, for the Cardinals' only run, had two singles and made a diving catch on a drive by White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza in the sixth.
"One of the best catches we've seen this year on our field," Matheny said.
Furcal was robbed of two hits, dropping him to 0 for his last 19 and 7 for his last 53. But, after not being able to handle De Aza's smash in the ninth, he made a diving stop on left fielder Dayan Viciedo's ball, which appeared headed to center field and which would have scored the tying run. That save preceded a game-inning double play ball thrown by Motte.
"(Furcal) is a little frustrated (at the plate), and he's working as hard as anybody I've seen," said Matheny. "He's a little beat up right now, so we'd like to get him some rest. But we need him in there."
RHP Chris Carpenter, who has been out all season because of weakness in his shoulder attributed to a nerve condition, threw off a mound for the first time since mid-March in spring training. Carpenter, who threw 26 pitches, all fastballs at less than top speed, hopes to be ready to pitch in the majors by mid- to late July.
LHP Marc Rzepczynski, one night after yielding a 436-foot homer to Chicago LF Adam Dunn, faced Dunn again on Wednesday with a man on and one out in the eighth. This time, Rzepczynski, who has struggled for the last month or so, got a double-play ball with the not insignificant help of 2B Daniel Descalso, who made an excellent stop to initiate the play. "That's our guy," manager Mike Matheny said of Rzcepzynski. "He couldn't wait to get back in there." Of Rzepczynski and, to a lesser extent, right-hander Mitchell Boggs, who also was tagged for an eighth-inning home run the night before, Matheny said, "We're going to keep putting them in those positions. We believe in them and we need them to believe in themselves."
RHP Lance Lynn, who has fanned 11 and 12 in his last two starts, became the first Cardinals starter to record back-to-back games of 10 strikeouts or more since RHP Chris Carpenter in 2010. He pitched with a sore lower back, just as he did in his last start. "It's one of those things that comes and goes," said Lynn. "I've got to make sure I stay loose between innings."
RF Carlos Beltran has hit the Cardinals' last three homers, all on this homestand and all solo homers. The Cardinals have scored only seven runs in the first five games of the stand but have won two of the games, both by shutouts, with RHPs Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn authoring the victories.
RHP Jason Motte gained his 12th save by getting White Sox 1B Paul Konerko to ground into a game-ending double play started by 3B David Freese. Freese has started 11 double plays, high in the National League.
9-1 Cardinals' record on Wednesdays this season. Their only loss was 10-7 in Atlanta on May 30.
"I go out there thinking like it's 0-0, no matter what inning it is." RHP Lance Lynn, who beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0 on Wednesday.