Lance Lynn's Latest Masterpiece

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click to enlarge Lance Lynn's Latest Masterpiece
You know, it's really kind of sad that Lance Lynn pitched last night. 

Not that it's a bad thing he was on the mound, by any means, or that I would have rather seen someone else. Hell, at the moment I think I can honestly say there isn't anyone I would rather see on the mound than Lance Lynn. 

No, the reason I think it's a little sad he was pitching last night is because, let's face it, no one is going to notice how good he was. It isn't often that seven-plus innings of two hit shutout ball fails to even move the needle, but his outing was literally the third-best game thrown by a National League pitcher last night. Matt Cain threw a perfect game against the Astros, striking out 14 in one of the greatest pitching performances in baseball history. R.A. Dickey lost a no-hitter on a controversial play David Wright didn't make. Between history and controversy, no one is going to remember how good Lance Lynn was last night. 

But to hell with all of that. This is a St. Louis sports column. We care about Lynn, right? 

Lynn struck out a dozen White Sox, and what is absolutely amazing to me is that, by my count, the first nine of those punchouts came on fastballs. The last three all came on curveballs -- which, by the way, was as good as I've yet seen that pitch from Lynn -- but nine strikeouts on the ol' number one, as I'm sure it's been called in more baseball movies than I could count. Six swinging, three called third strikes, all just on pure heat. You don't often see pitchers capable of making hitters miss that often on the fastball; then again, Lance Lynn isn't most pitchers. 

The highlight of the night came after Lynn allowed a leadoff triple to Alex Rios. Most of the time, you see an inning open up with a triple, you just concede that one run and try not to let things get any further out of hand. Lance Lynn, however, says to hell with that. He didn't concede the run. He proceeded to strike out the side, punching out A.J. Pierzynski and Alexei Ramirez, issuing an intentional pass to Orlando Hudson, and then blowing away Jake Peavy to escape the inning with the shutout intact. It was one of the finest pieces of pitching I think I've ever seen, to be completely honest with you. It's one thing to pitch well when you're pitching well, if you know what I mean, but to bear down and come up big at a moment like that...well, let's just say if I believe in Clutch I would invoke it here. 

In his last two starts now, Lynn has thrown a combined 13.1 innings, allowed 2 runs, 9 hits, faced 52 total batters, and compiled a 23/3 K/BB ratio. That's right; 23 strikeouts in just over 13 innings. Even over as small a sample size as we're talking about here, that's a flat-out amazing number. 

For the season, Lynn is now sporting a 2.42 ERA and, more impressively, a 2.89 FIP. This isn't an illusion, or dumb luck. That doesn't mean he's going to continue at this pace, of course, but it isn't as if he's getting by on smoke and mirrors. Or at least not mirrors. He seems to be doing pretty well with the smoke part. He's already been worth 2.0 WAR this year, and is doing a pretty damned fine impression right now of a borderline ace pitcher. 

It's a good thing, too; the Cardinals would be in bad, bad shape without Lynn. Kyle Lohse has been good in that particular Kyle Lohse-y way, where it always feels like he's on the verge of collapse but the numbers say otherwise, but beyond that the rotation has been a real problem this year. Lance Lynn, though...Lance Lynn has been the man. And that's the best way I can think of to say it. 

Lance Lynn is the man. Whether anyone remembers it or not. 

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