“It’s kind of a weird one, honestly,” Lynch said after he allowed six runs and nine hits in five innings with one walk and seven strikeouts. “You never want to give up six runs. I want to start with that. But I felt like I threw the ball really well. You want the team to be in a better position to win.”
Trailing 3-0 after the first inning, the Royals came back to score three of their own in the top of the second inning. But two home runs from Salvador Perez (one in the second and one in the eighth) and one from Michael A. Taylor weren’t enough to erase the damage the Cardinals did against Lynch.
“[Lynch] kept pitching,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Came in and was asking the right questions, saying the right things, taking ownership — and then just tried to keep us in the game. Unfortunately, six is a big number to get back. But give this offense enough time, and they’re going to fight their way back.”
The reason Lynch described his outing as “weird” was because he threw 81 pitches and felt like only two of them stung. Those two pitches, though, led to five of the six runs the lefty allowed.
The first was a changeup in the first inning to Nolan Arenado, who entered this series with two home runs through three games. Lynch had two outs — striking out Dylan Carlson and Paul Goldschmidt — and a runner on first.
Lynch fell behind 2-0 to Arenado with a fastball and a slider, then threw a slider for a called strike. He pounded the inside part of the plate against Arenado and got back into the count, 3-2, before throwing a changeup down and away for the eighth pitch of the at-bat.
It was in the zone. Arenado crushed it over the left-field wall for a two-run home run.
“Arenado is super hot, and you give him something good in the zone to hit — I didn’t particularly think it was a terrible pitch,” Lynch said. “But the guy’s an incredible hitter.”
The next pitch Lynch threw was a fastball down in the zone to Albert Pujols, who hammered it for his first home run since returning to the Cardinals. That fastball wasn’t a bad pitch, but it didn’t fool Pujols.
“The solo homers aren’t going to kill you,” Matheny said. “Good hitters, they’re going to get you every once in a while. That’s a pitch that if he keeps making, he’s going to have more success than not.”
The second pitch Lynch got hurt on was a two-strike slider to Andrew Knizner in the fourth inning. Lynch’s slider was good Tuesday; he got four whiffs and 10 called strikes on it.
In the fourth, Lynch allowed back-to-back singles to Pujols and Tommy Edman but struck out Harrison Bader on a slider and Paul DeJong on a fastball. A slider called for a strike and a sinker fouled away put Lynch ahead 0-2 on Knizner before throwing a changeup for a ball.
Then: A slider over the middle of the plate, rocketed for a three-run home run that broke the 3-3 tie.
“You got two outs and you’re ahead, you just can’t leave it over the plate,” Lynch said.
Lynch’s final inning was a 10-pitch scoreless fifth inning, working around two baserunners.
“It really came down to two different two-strike pitches that got more of the plate than what he wanted,” Matheny added. “Ended up costing us. … He’s matured as a pitcher, how he’s maintaining his emotion, how he keeps making good pitches. Just a couple mistakes.”
The key now, of course, is to ensure those mistakes don’t cost the Royals as much as they did Tuesday — limiting the damage and staying consistent with each inning, instead of the valleys and peaks Lynch experienced in his 16th career start.
Winning now matters but so does giving the young Royals starters time to grow and learn at the Major League level.
“They like to compete. And they’re starting to learn a little more,” Perez said. “It’s going to take some time. They got the stuff. They just need to concentrate, try to make a better pitch. … We’re going to have a great rotation. We’re getting close. Every day is a new opportunity to learn. Learn from tonight and try to get better for the next one.”