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Super Sub: Lynn powers Cardinals to 9-3 victory

2012-04-08T13:15:00Z 2012-04-10T21:26:42Z Super Sub: Lynn powers Cardinals to 9-3 victoryBY DERRICK GOOLD stltoday.com
April 08, 2012 1:15 pm  • 

MILWAUKEE -- When the Cardinals relocated Lance Lynn from the bullpen to the rotation as Chris Carpenter's replacement, the question was could Lynn take what he learned from short-burst relief and utilize it during long-form tests.

Sunday offered an initial and emphatic answer.

Every bit the bulldog he was as a reliever, Lynn rifled through the Milwaukee Brewers in the Cardinals' 9-3 victory at Miller Park. Lynn struck out eight, held the Brewers' to a solo homer through his 6 2/3 innings of work, and allowed only two hits. He threw 100 pitches, and he unnerved Milwaukee with a mix of heat and benders that led to three called third-strike Ks.

Lynn pitched consistently at 94 mph, and he twice reached 95 mph to punch-out a Brewer hitter.

The Cardinals backed Lynn with another display of offense that included three hits from three different hitters. Rafael Furcal had his third three-hit game of the season, giving him as many hits (10) in 19 at-bats this season as he had in a frustrating 52 at-bats during spring training. Carlos Beltran moved into the cleanup spot and contributed three hits, including his second homer of the season.

Shane Robinson punctuated his first start of the season with the first homer of his career.

Robinson had two singles in his first two at-bats as the Cardinals starting center fielder Sunday, and in the ninth he turned on a 2-1 pitch to drive a three-run shot into the second deck of stands in left field at Miller Park.

The only run against Lynn came in the fifth inning when Corey Hart slugged his third homer of the series. Lynn struck out the next four batters he faced, two of them on curveballs and two of them looking at a called-strike 3. Lynn pitched his first six innings with the lead, but not one larger than three runs. He yielded the mound to the bullpen in the seventh after walking Aramis Ramirez despite having the third baseman down 0-2 in the count.

Reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun set the final score with a solo homer off Cardinals closer Jason Motte in the ninth.

Braun had connected for two loud outs earlier in the game, driving balls to the 400 foot mark in center field and another about 395 feet from home plate. Both were caught by Robinson for outs. Braun's homer over the left-center wall traveled an estimated 405 feet, according to the Brewers.

The Cardinals depart Milwaukee tonight and open a three-game series in Cincinnati on Monday evening. The Cardinals play their first home game of the 2012 season -- their first home game as defending World Series champions -- on Friday.

***

Beltran's power backs Lynn's brawn

MILWAUKEE -- Recast in the cleanup spot during Mike Matheny's reshuffling of the lineup for a Sunday afternoon rubber game at Miller Park, Carlos Beltran hasn't slowed his first-week production.

Beltran lifted a 1-0 pitch from Marco Estrada past the right-field fence to give the Cardinals a 5-1 lead against the Brewers.

The homer was Beltran's second of the season and it gave him three hits on the afternoon -- two from the right side against Randy Wolf and one from the left side against Estrada.

Beltran's homer gave Lance Lynn the kind of cushion that he has not yet needed in his first start of the season, his first start since joining the rotation as the sub for Chris Carpenter. Lynn allowed a solo homer to Corey Hart, the Brewers outfielder, but he then struck out the next four consecutive batters. The punch-out pitches on those four at-bats show the stuff that Lynn has been utilizing today:

  • 79 mph curve K's Mat Gamel.
  • 95 mph fastball K's Alex Gonzalez.
  • 79 mph curve freezes George Kottaras.
  • 94 mph fastball freezes Travis Ishikawa.

Lynn is on for the seventh inning, though 90 pitches is fast approaching for the righty. Mitchell Boggs is warming in the bullpen as Lynn pitches to the inning's first hitter, Nyjer Morgan.

***

Freese's 6th RBI of the season equals 3-1 lead

MILWAUKEE -- Since, oh, about last August third baseman David Freese has talked about the most obvious benefit to batting where he does in the Cardinals' lineup is the number of RBI opportunities he'll automatically have just because of the hitters ahead of him.

Last fall it was Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.

This spring it's Carlos Beltran, ditto and ditto.

The results have been the same.

In each of his at-bats this afternoon, Freese has had a runner in scoring position. Once it was Holliday. (Freese grounded out.) The next time it was Tyler Greene. (Freese struck out.) In the fifth inning it was Holliday again. Freese poked a curveball back up the middle to score him from second and give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead through 4 1/2 innings.

What could have been a crooked-number inning for the Cardinals, however, fizzled after Freese. The first three batters of the innings reached -- Holliday with a walk, Beltran with a single (his second of the game), and Freese with the RBI poke. The three players, all part of the Cardinals' bench brigade this afternoon, failed to move the runners ahead. Matt Carpenter and Shane Robinson struck out, and backup catcher Tony Cruz popped up to second base.

Lance Lynn's shut out bid took a bruising in the fifth inning, and it was a familiar one. Brewers outfielder Corey Hart, who was questionable for the series after knee surgery a month ago, slugged his third homer in two days to put the Brewers on the scoreboard. Lynn has six strikeouts through five innings and he's outlasted Wolf. The lefty allowed three runs on nine hits through five innings.

Through five innings the Cardinals lead, 3-1.

Through four games this season Freese has six RBIs.

***

Furcal's two-out strike pushes Cards to 2-0 lead

MILWAUKEE -- A close call on Randy Wolf's 2-2 delivery to Rafael Furcal gave the Cardinals' leadoff hitter a second chance to deliver with two outs.

Furcal took a 2-2 pitch that didn't miss by much, if any at all. Home plate umpire Ed Hickox shrugged and called it a ball. Furcal then fouled off two pitches that were also close to the strike zone before delivering a full-count line drive to left-center field that scored Shane Robinson from second and gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

Robinson started the rally with his second hit of the game.

Lance Lynn, who has been stout through three innings, extended the inning with a two-out single off Wolf. The base hit to right was Lynn's first of his major-league career.

That brought up Furcal with two outs and two on and with two strikes Wolf thought he was about to get the punch out before Hickox ruled the 2-2 pitch was only a ball.

Lynn faced the minimum through three innings thanks to a pickoff of Ryan Braun at first base. The reigning NL MVP has the only hit off Lynn through the first three innings. The burly righty has struck out four of the first nine batters he faced. His first three strikeouts came on 94 mph, 94 mph and 95 mph fastballs, respectively.

Of his first 24 pitches, 17 were strikes.

Other than Braun's single to right field, the Brewers didn't get a ball out of the infield against Lynn until the first out of the fourth inning. Lynn has been able to feature a fastball that hums regularly at 93-94, an off-speed pitch that he drops into the strike zone every so often, and a curveball that has kept the Brewers honest.

***

Holliday stakes Lynn to a 1-0 lead

MILWAUKEE -- Matt Holliday, whose only hit so far this season was his solo homer Friday afternoon at Miller Park, gave starter Lance Lynn a bit of a lead to work with Sunday before the righty ever threw a pitch.

Holliday stung a line-drive double to the wall in right-center field, just past the outstretched glove of center fielder Nyjer Morgan. Holliday's double scored Rafael Furcal from first base -- but not before there was the possibility of a play at the plate. Morgan's throw from the wall reached cutoff man Rickie Weeks in time to have a chance at getting Furcal, who was waved around third base by coach Jose Oquendo.

Weeks throw was waaaaaay high and Furcal slid in safely.

Furcal's run is the third time in three days that the Cardinals have scored from first base on doubles. Mike Matheny has routinely said that the team would be aggressive on the bases with the runners who are comfortable being aggressive on the bases. Consider that Exhibit CC.

Holliday took third on the throw, but was stranded there after starter Randy Wolf coaxed consecutive groundouts.

The Cardinals lead 1-0 with Lynn about to throw his first pitch.

***

Matheny unleashes bench, starts Greene, M. Carpenter and Robinson

MILWAUKEE • And multiple changes it is.

Mike Matheny rewrote large chunks of his lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Brewers in order to rest a regular, acknowledge the struggles of another, and, perhaps most of all, get some of his bench players into the action in the first week of regular-season play.

"You've got to get some of these guys in there," he said. "You also want to pay attention when somebody gives someone a lot of trouble like Wolf does Berkman."

Yadier Molina gets his first day off of the year, allowing him to likely catch all three games in Cincinnati. Tony Cruz's familiarity with starter Lance Lynn -- the two were a battery in Class AAA -- helped guide Matheny's hand with the lineup. Tyler Greene gets his first start at second base of the year, and instead of moving Carlos Beltran to center, Matheny went with the only righthanded CF the Cardinals have, Shane Robinson.

The lineup that will accompany Lynn's first start of the season, his first start in the place of ace Chris Carpenter:

1. Rafael Furcal, SS

2. Tyler Greene, 2B

3. Matt Holliday, LF

4. Carlos Beltran, RF

5. David Freese, 3B

6. Matt Carpenter, 1B

7. Tony Cruz, C

8. Shane Robinson, CF

9. Lance Lynn, P

***

Brewers' lefty Wolf set to face Cardinals

MILWAUKEE • Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he was pondering multiple changes to the lineup he used for the first three games of the season, and the biggest reason why wasn't the rest or the opportunity to keep some backbenchers live but the Brewers starter.

Lefty Randy Wolf could put at least one regular in the dugout to start today's game.

He certainly will inspire a change at cleanup.

Cardinals' first baseman Lance Berkman has had a befuddling career against Wolf. Berkman is 3-for-32 in his career against the lefty, posting a .094/.256/.156 batting line. Contrast that with another switch hitter in the Cardinals' lineup, Carlos Beltran, who is 11-for-37 with a .297/.366/.649 line against Wolf. Matheny said he's considering Beltran for center field today -- Jon Jay is 1-for-6 in his career against Wolf -- and that any time the team faces a lefty Beltran will get that consideration.

(Aside: Before you groan as say this would have been a good day for Allen Craig to appear at first base consider that Craig is 1-for-15 with a single in his career against Wolf. Second aside: Craig did hit a homer off Wolf in the NLCS.)

Recall that Wolf pitched well in Game 4 of the National League championship series against the Cardinals, winning that game at Busch Stadium. Wolf allowed two runs on six hits during his seven innings that night, and he struck out six batters. Manager Tony La Russa took the unusual step of not starting Berkman in that game, though the veteran did get a pinch-hit hit later in the game.

Both of the runs Wolf allowed in that game came on solo homers -- one by Craig (as mentioned above) and the other by Matt Holliday.

Here is the lineup that will back Wolf today in the series finale at Miller Park:

1. Rickie Weeks, 2B

2. Nyjer Morgan, CF

3. Ryan Braun, LF

4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B

5. Corey Hart, RF

6. Mat Gamel, 3

7. Alex Gonzalez, SS

8. George Kottaras, C

9. Randy Wolf, P

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Baseball writers Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel cover the Cardinals for the Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com. They'll provide daily Cardinals updates here, from the start of spring training through the end of the season and beyond.

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