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Bird Watching

Bird Watching: Lynn Has Mo and Matheny in a Tight Spot…

The Cards are back to their winning ways just in time to overtake the charging Reds. After looking like all the hopes and aspirations for the Redbirds in 2012 were overblown and overly-optimistic, the Cardinals surged forward behind Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn to notch a couple much-needed wins. Yes, Waino appears to be returning to form on the mound, but the name everyone is talking about is Lance Lynn.

The hefty right-hander is trusting in his fastball once again, and the results – at least on Monday afternoon – were impressive. But although Lynn is tied with Cole Hamels for the major league lead in wins with eight, he fails to break the top 10 – and rarely the top 20 – in any other water cooler pitching category.

So…how is he getting it done?

First and foremost, we have to remember that, according to Bernie at StlToday.com, Lynn was “tinkering” with pitches and approach for several of his past starts. Experimentation like that will directly affect stats like WHIP and ERA. Had he, as he seems to have done in his most recent start, remained committed to his aggressive, fastball-heavy attack, he likely would find himself among the leaders in all relevant categories. And that speaks directly to just how Lynn is getting hitters out at a refreshing pace for the Cardinals.

His fastball.

That big, bullish heater continues to overwhelm hitters – not with it’s velocity, although Lynn’s 93 – 95 mph is nothing to smirk at – but rather with it’s weight. Watching from the comfort of my living room sofa, I imagine striking that “terminator” would feel akin to playing stick ball with a bowling ball. As a result, many hitters watch it sail by with nary an offering – or even worse, manage to find their gumption too late and offer too little.

But whatever the reason for his eight wins, one thing is becoming all-too clear. Lance Lynn has grabbed John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny by the throat and thrown them into a corner.

For weeks I have advocated finding another starting pitching solution and returning Lynn to the ‘pen. The reasons for my argument are simple. Lynn has never thrown the innings load he is about to throw at this level, nor has he thrown such a load under such intense conditions. His arm is bound to either break down or succumb to fatigue just when we need it the most.

In addition, the bullpen is struggling mightily and needs reinforcements. Lynn’s strong right arm and durable nature was slated to be a pillar the ‘pen could build around. Instead, it’s been left adrift, listless and leaderless. Finding another starting pitcher – like Oswalt, perhaps, or simply a pitcher to bridge the gap between now and the return of Carpenter – would allow Lynn to return to the ‘pen and stabilize it.

But now…that can never happen.

With Lance Lynn’s success in the rotation, especially after struggling a bit and then self-correcting, he’s cemented a place in the starting five at least until August when The Ace himself returns – and perhaps, with the struggles and unpredictability of Westbrook, even beyond. I only hope his arm can make it and Carpenter’s return is for real.

If Lynn’s arm gives out, especially if Carp’s return is aborted only a few starts in with a recurrence of his condition…

God help us all in Cardinal Nation.

Now…let’s get into the rest of it…

Matt Holliday is looking like the number three hitter most of us expected in the offseason. With his slash line up to .274/.356/.479 with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs, Captain Power seems to have returned. And his timing couldn’t be better. Lance Berkman’s absence has been covered nicely by Carlos Beltran, Matt Adams, and Yadier Molina…but there’s just no replacing a bat like Holliday’s in the lineup. He’s a legitimate force of nature in the three hole that makes the entire lineup look different when he’s in it and slugging away.

Allen Craig returns to the lineup Friday…so where does that leave Adams? Matt Adams’ major league debut came a bit earlier than planned, and his instant success seems to be on a collision course with a tough decision. Should the Cardinals send Adams back down to AAA to get every day at bats, or should they attempt to find at bats for him at first base as a LH’ed complement to Craig’s RH’ed swing? Certainly, opportunities to get both in the middle of the order should be plenty with Beltran’s dodgy knee creating playing time in RF for Craig…but how much outfield can Craig be expected to play with two leg-related stints on the DL under his belt just two months into the season? I do not envy Mo’s job when it comes to decisions like this.

Now…it gets real. The Reds are on top in the NL Central. The Cardinals have a true, legit challenger. The idea that this Redbirds team would run away with the division must be reconsidered now that so many flaws have made themselves known on the Cardinals roster. If healthy, St. Louis is unmatched in the Central. But when faced with such a parade of injuries…that’s when a rookie manager with a new coaching staff stands out. Every mistake is magnified. Every “learning experience” comes at the expense of a team loss. It’s time for the Redbirds to get healthy and grow up real fast. The race is on.

Wrap-Up!

That’ll do it for today. Here’s hoping Westbrook can find a rhythm again tonight and notch the Cardinals’ third win in a row…

GO CARDS!!!

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