CHICAGO -- Following a winter in which he signed a $22 million extension and a spring in which he maneuvered through a brief interruption to still accomplish what he needed, Lance Lynn opened the season with a reminder that he is every bit the front-end starter that the Cardinals are now paying him to be.
Six innings of near dominance were, in the box score, overshadowed by a quick, but costly, sequence in the seventh on Wednesday at Wrigley Field. It left Lynn hanging with just his second April loss in four seasons, but hardly left anyone else sour with his season outlook. A 2-0 loss to the Cubs was as much the result of the offense stalling as it was Lynn slipping.
Manager Mike Matheny described Lynn afterward as "great." Added catcher Yadier Molina: "We had a good plan and we executed pretty well."
Lynn opened his fourth year in the Cardinals' rotation by retiring the first 10 batters he faced. He struck out five during that stretch and finished the afternoon with nine punchouts, a total he hit four times in 2014.
A one-out triple by Jorge Soler interrupted Lynn's early dominance, but it was hardly an impediment. Lynn worked around the fourth-inning hit without issue and, two innings after, froze Soler on a 94-mph fastball to close the sixth.
That's as far as ace Adam Wainwright had gotten on Sunday night, though Lynn had done so with more ease. While the Cubs took 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position against Wainwright, Lynn left almost no such opportunities.
But Lynn couldn't match Wainwright's result, as the outcome was sealed during a fateful four-pitch sequence in the seventh. He plunked leadoff hitter Anthony Rizzo -- "We wanted it on the corner inside, but he yanked it too much," Molina said -- and then made a sloppy pickoff throw to first that skipped past Matt Adams. Rizzo took second.
And on Lynn's third pitch to Starlin Castro, the Cubs' shortstop put the first dent in a scoreless game with an RBI single to left.
"It was just a slider that was a little up," Lynn said. "He just got enough wood on it. A little further away and you're probably looking at a ground ball to short. But it was a good piece of hitting by him."
Lynn's day ended there, though in many ways it was a continuation of where he was a year ago when he allowed three or fewer runs in 29 of his 33 starts, tied for most in the Majors. His 24 quality starts were tied for sixth in the National League. His 60 quality starts since 2012 rank ninth-best in the league.
"We know that's one of the teams we'll have to go through -- especially in our division if we want to get to where we're trying to go," said Chicago's Jake Arrieta, who outdueled Lynn on Wednesday. "It was a big win, especially the way that Lynn threw the ball today. He was sharp."