DEVELOPING: Lance Lynn is growing on me.
Sources close to the situation credit Lynn’s flourishing maturity for the ever-evolving appreciation.
It seems to have happened overnight, this controlled and commanding Lance Lynn. But I know it didn’t. It’s been three seasons in the making; three exhilarating and heartbreaking seasons of impassioned successes and calamitous struggles. I’ve never felt unreasonable in my frustrations with Lynn’s inconsistency, though my outsider view of his temperament is certainly open to debate. But I’m certainly not above giving a guy a chance to change my mind. In fact, I’ve longed for Lynn to do just that.
I’m thrilled to say, I’m as impressed with his transformation as with anything else this season.
In his nine starts since the 3.1 inning mishap that led to the latest piece in the Lynn Saga, Lance has been nothing short of first-rate. With the exception of “Callus-Gate,” Lynn has allowed no more than two earned runs in any start. He’s twice pitched eight shutout innings, and earned five wins, in only two of which the Cardinals scored more than three runs (further putting to rest the “he only wins because of the run support” narrative).
He’s second only to Adam Wainwright in strikouts and innings pitched. He’s much improved in high leverage situations, and as many have said lately, his damage control skills are night and day different than when the “Lynning” became a real thing.
Rather than glare menacingly at an infielder who didn’t make the play on a routine double-play ball, Lynn has found a way to channel that competitive fire into his next pitch. He’s learning, as he said after a strong outing against the Dodgers, how to get the job done even without his very best stuff.
His postgame interviews have become fascinating, rather than infuriating.
“I felt good, but I made a couple of mistakes and they just beat me,” is cliche, perhaps, but far more likable than less quotable moments in the past.
The man is incredibly funny, too. And likely a bit misunderstood (…guilty). But it’s refreshing to hear his honesty mixed with some propriety.
And really, there’s no better time for new-and-improved Lance Lynn to establish a more mature presence in the rotation.
The Cardinals are once again chasing the Brewers while trying to hold off the Pirates and the Reds. They’re 4-5 since losing Yadier Molina. They’ve been outscored 46-32 in those 9 games. Michael Wacha won’t be back until — potentially — September. Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez are flip-flopping in and out of the rotation and the bullpen because both are alarmingly unreliable.
And the offense? That’s a misery all to itself.
As important as Joe Kelly’s return to the mix is, Lynn’s is seemingly even more so. He’s the #2 guy in a rotation trying to piece itself back together in the middle of a four-team division race. There’s no wiggle room for a second-half fade.
The Cardinals need someone to step up, push their game to a higher level, and drag the rest of the motley crew with them.
Finally, Lynn appears poised to be that guy.
And I, for one, couldn’t be happier to say that.