Lance Lynn was tied for the National League wins at 13, in part because he’s good at his craft and, in part, because of his team’s largesse on offense, averaging a league-high 6.61 runs a game for him.
But for one of the few times Friday night, the Cardinals’ offense forsook Lynn. And so did his control in a three-run Chicago seventh inning as the Cubs made sure he didn’t gain win No. 14 by beating the Cardinals 3-0 before a paid crowd of 42,664 at Busch Stadium.
Lynn (13-6), who allowed just three hits but walked five and hit two batters, issued two of his passes and nicked one batter in the seventh, and lefthander Randy Choate allowed a two-run, ground-ball single to lefthanded-hitting Anthony Rizzo. The fast-backsliding Cardinals lost for the third straight game and 12th time in their last 16 games. They have had 24 hits in the last three games, 22 of them singles, and just five runs.
But they didn’t go quietly as pinch hitter Daniel Descalso, who was called out on a full-count pitch for the second out of the ninth, and manager Mike Matheny both were ejected by home-plate umpire David Rackley.
It was the first ejection for Descalso, who had his say before he left the field, not being tossed out at that point, but he popped out of the dugout to renew his displeasure. This caused Matheny to enter the fray and he was tossed for the fourth time in his career.
“Obviously, I didn’t like the call and I let him know about it. I just sort of snapped there,” said Descalso.
“I didn’t like it. He didn’t like what I had to say about it. I still don’t like it. But I can’t do anything about it now.
“I thought I had a walk there.”
Matheny said, “I understand that nobody likes being yelled at but at that point in the game, I felt that that didn’t have to happen. They do what they feel they need to do to defend themselves. And then ... I don’t even know ... I just stick up for my guys.
“Danny’s a scrappy player. He knows how that big situation is. He didn’t feel like it was a strike. I don’t want any of our guys rolling over.”
This vignette, however, obscures the big picture, and Matheny didn’t want to do that either.
The Cardinals are still four games behind the National League Central Division-leading Pittsburgh Pirates, who were clubbed 10-1 by Colorado on Friday night, but only two games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds, who had been left in disarray by the Cardinals last weekend.
Matheny, sounding like a man close to calling a team meeting, said, “In general, our offense has been very consistent all season. But we’ve got to get it done. In games like this, we’ve got to get it done. And they know that.
“I think we’re all just fed up with excuses. It comes down to the bottom line. We’ve got to score runs. We’ve got to score more than them. We’ve got to keep runs from scoring.”
A team almost desperate for a spark has two of the top minor league prospects anywhere on its Memphis roster. Kolten Wong is hitting .302 with 19 steals in 20 attempts, but he plays second base, which is being manned more than ably by Matt Carpenter, who does play third. But David Freese is one of the few Cardinals swinging the bat with authority.
Outfielder Oscar Taveras, hitting .306, has been unusable for two months because of a high ankle sprain.
This is an offense that will be significantly better when injured All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, who has led the league in hitting much of the season, comes back next week. And All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran, his legs dragging, was out of the lineup Friday.
But the Cardinals still are 12-18 in games started by lefthanded pitching this season, with young Cubs lefthander Chris Rusin posting his second win with six scoreless innings before yielding to a four-pronged Cubs bullpen.
Ironically, the Cardinals’ only win in the last five games came against the league’s best pitcher, Los Angeles Clayton Kershaw, whom they also beat in May.
“We’ve had issues in the past with guys (Rusin) we haven’t seen before,” said Matheny. “There could be some value to that.
“That could be an excuse. And we’re not going there. For whatever reason, we’re having a tough way to go finding wins, whether it’s lefties, righties, whatever. We’ve just got to find a way.”
Matheny said things “can roll out of control sometimes and we’ve got some things rolling in a direction we need to stop. We need to each look at ourselves in the mirror, instead of looking at the other guy. ‘What can I do to make a difference? And help change the way this is going.’’’
The Cardinals benefited from an umpires’ reversal on a Cubs sacrifice attempt in the seventh but, with two out, Junior Lake singled on a ball out of the strike zone for the first run.
Lynn then grazed Cole Gillespie with a pitch and lefthander Choate was rushed in to face Rizzo with the bases loaded.
This move smacked of advantage, Cardinals, because Rizzo was hitting .197 against lefthanders and only .181 with men in scoring position. But Rizzo grounded a 2-2 pitch up the middle.
Choate said, “I feel I made a good pitch but obviously it wasn’t good enough. I was brought here to do a job. Unfortunately, that ball found a hole and I didn’t do my job.”
Lynn said he didn’t do his, either.
“You walk two in that (seventh) inning and you hit a guy, you should give up some runs. I definitely brought that on myself ... but other than that I thought I threw the ball well,” said Lynn.”
Lynn, a .105 hitter, had a chance to help himself twice at bat in the early innings but failed both times after doubles by Jon Jay, who had three hits, and then intentional walks to Pete Kozma, who is hitting .232.
“I’d love to get a hit in both of those situations and it could be a totally different ballgame,” Lynn said. “I’m going to keep working and, hopefully when that situation arises later this year, I’m going to get a hit. That’s what I think I’m going to do.”