I’ve spent quite a bit of time this evening defending Mike Matheny’s decision to let Lance Lynn start this game over Shelby Miller or Joe Kelly. And I don’t usually find myself in the position of defending Matheny, either. In the end, it didn’t work out for the Cardinals as Lynn struggled through the game, allowing 5 earned runs over 4.1 innings of work. The main complaint being that Lynn can’t be relied upon because he isn’t mentally tough and he’s been killed by the Pirates all season.
While I can’t speak to the former, I can understand why it would be an issue, especially when your offense thought it was a night game. The latter is definitely true. Lance Lynn has been killed by the Pirates this season. The Pirates hit .283/.371/.505 against him this season. For a reference, that’s like if every hitter in the Pirates lineup were Matt Adams (.284/.335/.503). And well, that’s certainly not good for a pitcher.
But Miller wasn’t much better. The Pirates hit him with a line of .321/.396/.679 this season. I don’t have a good comparable to that because that slugging percentage is higher than Miguel Cabrera‘s (who led all of baseball in slugging). In fact, if that was a player he would have finished 5th in batting average, 9th in on base percentage, and 1st in slugging percentage. We’d be talking about an MVP candidate.
So Matheny was left to go with the lesser of two evils. But there was also Joe Kelly left the dugout. The Pirates have only hit Kelly for a line of .250/.337/.310, which is really good. But Kelly is also 2-0 against the Pirates in PNC Park. And with massive home/road splits for Lynn and Miller, you’d much rather have Joe Kelly on the mound needing a win in PNC Park than either of those two.
Since we needed to use four starters in this series it made sense. You’re going to have to use either Miller or Lynn at some point in the series. They both pitch much better at home. Lynn finished up the year stronger and had the better numbers against Pittsburgh. It was an obvious decision.
The Cardinals split at home against Pittsburgh. Which isn’t as bad as everyone likes to make it seem. Every time the Cardinals have visited Pittsburgh this season, they’ve won one game. That’s all that you need to get back to St. Louis with Adam Wainwright on the mound.
But in Pittsburgh you’ll have Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha on the mound.
Kelly has a 1.00 ERA in 3 starts against the Pirates this season.
Wacha has one start against the Pirates and he held them to 2 hits over 7 innings.
The world is not coming to an end and it’s certainly no more difficult a series than it was going to be otherwise. We have to win two games of three with Kelly, Wacha, and Wainwright on the mound. I’ll take those chances. It didn’t work out this time, but that doesn’t make it the wrong decision.