One amazing factoid emerged from the Cardinals NLCS victory over the Brewers in six games, a factoid repeated and referred to in a million different ways: the Cardinals are still playing today because of their bullpen. Under Tony La Russa`s careful stewardship, the Cards `pen recorded more outs than the starting pitchers in the series with the Brewers.
The Colby Rasmus trade is the most frequently-cited catalyst for the Cardinals bullpen rebirth, with La Russa`s careful deployment providing the extra edge.
Don`t sleep on the unexpected contributions from right-handed rookie Lance Lynn, an excellent bridge to the late-inning relievers and the perfect tool for the match-up wacky mind of one TLR.
Lance Lynn wasn`t even supposed to be here today! After an oblique strain landed Lynn on the disabled list in August, the Cardinals moved Lynn to the 60-day DL to clear up a roster spot for their furious push to the playoffs. The team didn`t expect much from Lynn, even in the final desperate days of the regular season.
Lynn experienced no discomfort during the session and admitted excitement about entering the offseason without restriction. That does not equate to availability for the postseason.
“For me, just to know I’m going into the offseason, or whatever happens, feeling good and knowing that I can do whatever I need to do to get ready for next spring training is big,” Lynn said. “The plan when I got hurt was to throw to hitters so I could know going into the offseason. It’s all you can ask for. It means a lot knowing I’m able to do whatever I need to do this winter to make the team next spring training.”
Those are not the words of a man expecting to feature prominently in the post-season. Especially for a player unavailable to come off the DL until after the division series.
Lynn`s recovery coincided with the Cardinals unlikely post-season push so, when his health allowed it, the Cardinals thrust the rookie and long-time starter into a post-season playoff role.
Appearing in five of the six NLCS games, Lynn thrived in his first taste of both post-season baseball and high-leverage relief pitching. The Brewers mustered just 3 hits and 2 walks in 5.1 innings with Lynn on the hill.
Lynn’s best work came in games 3 and 4. La Russa called on Lynn to face Rickie Weeks with the bases loaded and only one out in the fifth inning. Lynn quickly induced a 6-4-3 double play on the first pitch and the Cardinals cruised to victory.
As a converted starter, Lynn is able to cut down on his five-pitch arsenal to just focus on a fastball/curveball combination. Against right-handers like Weeks and Braun, Lynn uses his curve to induce the ever-important double play balls that keep these sluggers in the park.
By adding Lynn to their bullpen, the Cardinals have another late-inning option which allows La Russa to tinker away as he loves to do. Lynn’s availability pushed past-his-prime Jake Westbrook off the playoff roster while still keeping sort-of-crappy Kyle McClellan on the sidelines. TLR knows he can count on Lynn in the sixth, seventh, or even eighth innings should he chose to hold righty master Octavio Dotel back to face the team’s best hitter.
With a Rangers lineup lousy with right-handed power, Lynn’s World Series role remains pretty much the same as his NLCS job: get out big time righties. Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre can expect a lot of Lance Lynn in their lives for the 10 days or so.