ST. LOUIS — Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia didn’t feel right during his normal between-start bullpen session a few days ago. But, thinking it was just the regular soreness that most pitchers deal with this time of year, he kept quiet.
Three walks, two hits and a run later, Garcia had no choice but to fess up about his discomfort after the bottom of the second inning of Monday’s eventual 12-4 win in Game 2 of the NLDS vs. the Washington Nationals.
“The last couple weeks I’ve been feeling the best I’ve felt in a long time and everything was going really good,” Garcia said. “I don’t know how it happened, I don’t know when it happened and I’m just hoping that it’s not as bad as, I hope it’s not too bad. But we’ll wait and see.”
And while most teams would find themselves in a tough spot going to their bullpen in the third inning of a playoff game, the Cardinals are a rare exception. That’s because most teams don’t have an 18-game winner and All-Star starter pitching out of the bullpen in postseason play.
But that’s where Lance Lynn found himself heading into this series. And the Cardinals were sure glad he was there. The right-hander shut the door after two rough innings by Garcia, retiring six of the first seven batters he faced as his club opened up a comfortable 6-1 lead after the fourth.
“Certainly tip our cap to Lance Lynn being able to come in in a situation like that and perform and keep his composure and be prepared,” said manager Mike Matheny. “It’s a huge advantage, especially because he’s so durable and strong that we can do that, even though he pitched last night.
“But he’s tough. He’s tough-minded, he’s physically tough and we felt very comfortable going to him in that situation.”
Lynn allowed two solo home runs in the fifth inning once the game had pretty much gone out of reach for Washington. He finished with two earned runs on three hits in three innings.
And if Garcia is out for an extended period of time like most expect, Lynn likely will find himself back in the starting rotation should the Cardinals advance past the Nationals and into the League Championship Series.
“It makes it fun,” Lynn said. “If I show them I can do more things, maybe they will keep me around longer. That’s what it’s all about. When they call your name you go pitch, whenever it is. If you keep doing that, good things will happen for you.
“I pitched in five of the seven World Series games (last year) so going to the bullpen this year isn’t a big deal. I think that’s why he was confident in me going down there, because I was able to do it last year.”
Garcia had an MRI taken on his left shoulder and the results are expected to be announced Tuesday. The left-hander missed two months with an impingement in the same shoulder but returned in mid-August.
Garcia wouldn’t say how his current pain compared to how he felt before landing on the disabled list in June. If he’s replaced on the roster for the rest of the Division Series, he wouldn’t be eligible to return until the World Series.
But with how well Lynn has pitched, the Cardinals appear to still be in fine shape.