Preview: Lynn, Cardinals go for sweep of Phillies
The St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in baseball, though Lance Lynn's recent struggles have helped prevent that mark from being even more impressive.
He'll look to get back on track as St. Louis seeks to deal the visiting Philadelphia Phillies a fifth consecutive defeat in Thursday night's series finale.
St. Louis (61-37) leads Pittsburgh by 1 1/2 games atop the NL Central and has won six of eight after Wednesday's 11-3 victory. Yadier Molina homered and had three hits to improve his NL-best batting average to .339.
He narrowly leads teammate Allen Craig, who is hitting .337 after going 2 for 4 to extend his hitting streak to nine. Craig has hit safely in 26 of his last 28 games and is batting .429 over his last 19.
Matt Adams added two hits and three RBIs on Wednesday.
"I try to see the ball as long as I can and just battle," Adams said. "I just dial in my focus more."
Lynn (11-5, 4.13 ERA) may want to do the same, as the Cardinals' only defeats during their recent hot stretch have come when he's pitched.
The right-hander went 8-1 with a 2.76 ERA in 12 starts though June 3, but he's just 3-4 with a dismal 6.32 ERA over his last eight. He has lost four of his last five outings -- all against sub-.500 clubs -- after giving up four runs in five innings of a 5-3 loss to San Diego on Saturday.
"He's had a couple weird starts, and when those start to compound you've got to stop and regroup," manager Mike Matheny said. "It didn't look like he was able to do that."
While Lynn has acknowledged his struggles, he also believes some unlucky occurrences have contributed to his rough stretch.
"When you look at the runs I gave up (Saturday), they were tough runs to give up," Lynn said. "When you make a pitch and it's a broken-bat hit to the third baseman, it's tough. When you get a nubber back to you and he gets a hit, that's tough. That's kind of the stretch I'm in right now."
Lynn was going just fine versus the Phillies on April 20 when he allowed one hit -- a John Mayberry double in the fifth -- while striking out eight in seven innings of a 5-0 win.
Philadelphia (49-52) has lost four of six meetings with St. Louis and is on the verge of matching its worst losing streak of the season. Mayberry had two hits for the Phillies, who have scored only eight runs during their skid.
Kyle Kendrick will take the mound looking to end some struggles of his own.
Kendrick (9-6, 3.94) went 4-0 with a 1.84 ERA in seven starts from April 10-May 12, including giving up two runs in six innings of a 7-3 win over the Cardinals on April 21. He hasn't been nearly as good since that stretch, going 5-5 with a 5.00 ERA over his last 12 outings.
The right-hander gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings Friday but got enough run support to be credited with a 13-8 win over the New York Mets.
"I was missing over the plate," Kendrick said. "I was up and I just couldn't really make a pitch. It was a grind."
Kendrick, though, is 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA in seven career starts versus St. Louis, and Matt Holliday is 2 for 18 (.111) lifetime against him.