Since returning to St. Louis after a few spot starts for Kyle McClellan, Lance Lynn has established himself a go-to late innings guy in the bullpen. In the 24 1/3 innings he posted in the St. Louis bullpen since June 24th, Lynn has a 2.22 ERA, has allowed just 8 walks, and has opponents hitting just .176 off of him. In the last 14 days, opponents were hitting just .083 against him in 7 2/3 innings. Dominant.
On Tuesday night in the top of the 9th inning in a 3-3 ballgame, Lynn was closing in on his second 1-2-3 inning of relief. He had faced 5 batters, had three strikeouts and was cruising. Then on a 3-2 pitch to George Kottaras he grabbed his side and the pitch ended up as a ball, walking Kottaras. Octavio Dotel, a Cardinal for just two weeks, came in to close out the inning and keep the game tied.
For the Cardinals it was a stunning loss, but it had the ability to be much worse. Just sit for a moment and consider just where the Cardinals’ bullpen would be if the team hadn’t made the moves at the trade deadline to acquire Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, and Marc Rzepczynski. Nowhere pretty, that’s for sure.
Now, however, the Cardinals have some bullpen depth and can more easily absorb an injury, though losing the guy who was quite possibly your best reliever is no easy task for a team. Having Kyle McClellan back in the bullpen will definitely help the Cardinals bullpen absorb the loss. Jason Motte is also one of the hottest relief pitchers in baseball right now, having not allowed an earned run since June 23rd. His season long ERA has dropped to 1.96 after throwing a perfect 7th inning on Tuesday night. New acquisitions Dotel and Rzepczynski further help the ability of this bullpen to cope with the loss.
The question will be what the Cardinals will do for the remainder of the season. Who gets a call up or will they pursue someone the waiver wire. Brandon Dickson was strong in a handful of innings earlier this summer. You also have a left handed pitcher like Arthur Rhodes who is available who could serve as that second lefty reliever out of the bullpen. Rhodes’ days as a regular reliever might be over, but his .216 opponents batting average against left handed hitting could make him an intriguing LOOGY option. That would also allow Rzepczynski to take a larger role in the bullpen if needed.
Tonight against Milwaukee, however, the Cardinals put off that decision when they reactivated Allen Craig off the disabled list, opting to go with an 11 man pitching staff tonight against the division leading Brewers.
Craig who hit the disabled list in early June after breaking his knee cap is back two months later. So far this season, Craig has surpassed expectations, hitting .336 with a .405 OBP with 4 HR and 23 RBI in his 40 games. He played a pivotal role early in the season when Matt Holliday got injured and was set up to do the same when he suffered his own injury. He will make his return in right field tonight as Lance Berkman, who is 3-for-30 against Brewers’ starter Randy Wolf, will not get the start.
The Cardinals also get Yadier Molina back tonight from a 5 day suspension for an incident in the Cardinals’ last series against the Brewers.