With postseason call not too far off, Lynn turns tide

Starter rebounds from rough stretch to go six scoreless as Cards weigh October rotation

With postseason call not too far off, Lynn turns tide

ST. LOUIS -- Manager Mike Matheny described it as "one of those elephants in the room," that is the Cardinals' upcoming decision on how to shave what has been the Majors' best five-man starting staff into a rotation of four.

While other teams are left hoping that they can find third and fourth starters good enough for postseason assignments, the Cardinals may be soon leaving someone with a double-digit win total and sub-3 ERA on the outside. In Wednesday's 10-2 victory over the Reds, Lance Lynn pitched as if he didn't want to be that guy.

The Cardinals, at least publicly, have not begun to script any postseason pitching plans. There's still a division race to be won, of course, and Matheny has no interest in abandoning the tunnel vision that has brought the Cardinals to the doorstep of a third straight National League Central crown. But Lynn's previous seven starts hadn't harvested much confidence.

He entered his start against Cincinnati having posted a 5.34 ERA during that stretch and unable to finish four innings in three of those games. Lynn came out with an edge on Wednesday, however, and hushed concerns of a tailspin by cruising over six shutout innings.

"[The starters] get where we are and the decisions that are ahead," Matheny said when the topic of postseason plans arose. "And we have not shied away from that healthy competition all year. Every guy passes it onto the next and sees if they can top the previous one. I think they've done a real nice job of pushing each other like that."

The fastball command that had abandoned Lynn in recent weeks returned after a productive few days talking mechanics with pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and bullpen coach Blaise Ilsley. Matheny noted that together the three figured out "some small things to do to keep [Lynn] through the ball to where it wasn't running off the plate so much."

Lynn didn't issue a walk and went to only three three-ball counts. He induced all but one of his outs via strikeout or in the infield.

"You use those as fuel to get better," Lynn said of his recent rough patch. "You're going to have bad ones. ... You use them and keep trying to improve and keep trying to get better."

Lynn is in line to have two more regular-season starts during which he can assert his candidacy for a starting opportunity in October. He said that he would agree to a bullpen role -- "as long as we win, that's all that matters" -- but his actions stated that he's aiming for more.

"Don't count anybody out," Matheny said. "This stuff kind of takes care of itself over time. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves in any planning. We have some tough baseball ahead of us and are looking forward to this push. The rest will take care of the rest when we get there."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.