Cards look to chew up Cubs at Wrigley

News-DemocratMay 6, 2013 

Lance Lynn and the St. Louis Cardinals are on a roll.

Lynn will try to improve his record to 6-0 and the Cardinals will attempt to extend their winning streak to seven games when they face the struggling Chicago Cubs at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

St. Louis (20-11) completed a four-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, winning 10-1.

The Cardinals outscored the Brewers 29-13 in the series as center fielder Jon Jay was 8-for-14 (.571) with one home run and six RBIs, first baseman Allen Craig was 8-for-19 (.421) with one homer and seven RBIs and left fielder Matt Holliday was 5-for-15 (.333) with two homers and five RBIs.

Even the previously slumping David Freese got in on the act with six hits in the series

The Cardinals appear to be heading to Chicago at an opportune time. The Cubs (11-20 through Sunday), who will pitch Travis Wood (2-2, 2.50 ERA) in the opener, were swept by the Cincinnati Reds in a three-game series.

Chicago is on a four-game losing skid and already trails the first-place Cardinals by nine games in the NL Central just five weeks into the season.

Lynn, who opened last season with a 6-0 record en route to an All-Star Game selection, had a no-decision in his first start of the season in Arizona, but has since defeated Cincinnati (twice), Pittsburgh (twice) and Philadelphia.

In his last three starts, Lynn has allowed just two earned runs in 21 innings, with eight walks and 22 strikeouts. He is 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA in five career games, four of them starts, against the Cubs.

The Cardinals were concerned about Lynn last season after his hot start faded away. He lost three of his five starts in June and was winless between July 28 and Sept. 8 when he was 4-6 with a 6.75 ERA in 10 games, five of which were out of the bullpen.

Body language was an issue for Lynn. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny spoke about the need for him to control his emotions, particluarly when things didn't go his way.

Matheny said Lynn, 25, has matured in that department this season, his second as a full-time starter.

"It was something I thought was a problem for him, where he would almost lose it," Matheny said. "He's so intense that he kind of had trouble containing himself. Earlier this spring, we've been kind of nudging him to get a little bit of that. It's a fine line to walk.

"When you're coming in throwing coolers and punching stuff, you've got to contain it to a point. When you're starting to show that emotion too much on the mound and it's affecting how you execute your pitches ... There's a balance there."

The new Lynn was on display in his last start Wednesday against Cincinnati at Busch Stadium.

With the Cardinals leading 1-0 in the sixth, Lynn left a slider up and over the plate to Brandon Phillips, who doubled into right-center to score Joey Votto, who had walked, with the tying run.

Unlike similar situations in the past, however, Lynn didn't succumb to his frustration. He rebounded with back-to-back strikeouts of Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier, and the Cardinals scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth and won 4-2.

"He had a great mix of intensity but being controlled still," Matheny said. "He knew (the slider to Phillips) wasn't the pitch he wanted to throw at that particular time. You could see his frustration, but he let that go and got right back to the game plan."

Matheny called it another "step in the maturity process."

"He needs the intensity to where he takes something ... that didn't go exactly his way, and he comes back and keeps making really good pitches," he said.

Physically, Lynn never has been better. He shed more than 40 pounds in the offseason, a conditioning plan the Cardinals put in place for him soon after the season.

Lynn doesn't use his improved fitness level as the reason he's getting better results.

"I was throwing the ball pretty well last year at times, too," he said. "We're going to wait and see how it affects (me) later in the season. Everybody feels good right now. It's all about how you feel as the season goes on."

Jake Westbrook (2-1, 1.07 ERA) will pitch for the Cardinals against the Cubs' Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 2.85 ERA) at 1:20 p.m. Wednesday --the only other game in the series.

After another off day Thursday, the Cardinals return to Busch Stadium on Friday to begin a 10-game homestand against Colorado, the New York Mets and Milwaukee.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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