ST. LOUIS -- Trivia question: Who is the Cardinals' all-time leader in postseason pitching appearances?
The answer will come Sunday, when Lance Lynn takes the Busch Stadium mound to start Game 4 (7 p.m. CT air time on FOX, 7:15 p.m. first pitch) of the World Series against the Red Sox. With the Cards holding a 2-1 lead following a wild 5-4 victory in Game 3 on Saturday night, Lynn can help lead the club to within one win of clinching its 12th championship.
It will be Lynn's 20th appearance in the postseason, pushing him past Cardinals closers Jason Isringhausen and Jason Motte for a club record. The addition of playoff rounds over the years has helped. So did one very famous bullpen phone in Texas during the 2011 World Series.
But the mark is nonetheless notable when you consider Lynn is only 26 years old.
"I think he's one of the guys that gets overlooked as we start talking about the youth of the staff," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Lance is a guy that won 18 games for us last season and has done well in the postseason, and he does carry himself like a guy that's been around a while. But I believe he's still a young pitcher and still learning, still adapting -- a lot like we talked about [Game 3 starter] Joe Kelly."
That evolution has taken Lynn from a swingman in 2011, when he made 10 postseason relief appearances for St. Louis (including Game 5 of the World Series, when a miscommunication between manager Tony La Russa and then-bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist led to Lynn entering only to intentionally walk Ian Kinsler ), to an 18-game winner as a starter during the '12 regular season, to a career high for starts and innings in '13.
That long resume is why Lynn is rarely counted among the "young pitchers" credited with carrying the Cardinals to this point. Yet Lynn is only 11 months older than Kelly and three years older than closer Trevor Rosenthal.
On any other staff, Lynn would be one of the kids. On this staff, he is a veteran helping guide the likes of Rosenthal, setup man Carlos Martinez and 22-year-old phenom Michael Wacha.
Tale of the Tape: Game 4
|2013 regular season|
|Overall: 16 GS, 12-1, 1.74 ERA, 36 BB, 96 K||Overall: 33 GS, 15-10, 3.97 ERA, 76 BB, 198 K|
|Key stat: Buchholz was a perfect 6-0 with a 1.40 ERA in seven starts on the road during the regular season.||Key stat: Though he's just 26 years old, Lynn has already pitched in 19 playoff games (33 2/3 innings).|
|At Busch Stadium|
|2013: 16 GS, 9-3, 2.82 ERA, 34 BB, 99 K
Career: 39 G, 29 GS, 18-8, 2.97 ERA, 64 BB, 201 K
|Against this opponent|
|Loves to face: n/a
Hates to face: n/a
|Loves to face: Jonny Gomes, 0-for-2, K
Hates to face: Quintin Berry, 1-for-3, RBI
|Why he'll win: Buchholz is coming off his best outing of the postseason his last time out, limiting Detroit to two runs on four hits and two walks in Game 6 of the ALCS.||Why he'll win: Lynn was effective at home this season, posting a 9-3 record and a 2.82 ERA, and will be well rested, pitching on 11 days' rest.|
|Pitcher beware: In the regular season, the Cardinals' offense was often at its best with Lynn on the mound. The right-hander led the National League in run support at 5.2 runs per game.||Pitcher beware: Lynn hasn't pitched deeper than 6 1/3 innings since Aug. 25, and the Red Sox have been effective early, scoring 39 percent of their runs in the first three frames this season.|
|Bottom line: Buchholz has allowed three or more runs in four of his seven starts since coming off the disabled list. Shoulder fatigue pushed his World Series start back to Game 4, and the Red Sox hope he can return to his early season form when he started the year 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA.||Bottom line: After a shaky July and August, Lynn sealed his place in the playoff rotation by posting a 1.09 ERA over his last four starts. Though he has two wins this October, Lynn has given up seven earned runs in 11 2/3 innings, which may have him on a short leash as fellow 15-game winner Shelby Miller waits in the bullpen.|
"It brings me back to my first year," Lynn said. "It's a fun time. Guys are getting to live their childhood dreams right now, and I've been lucky to live it [in the World Series] two out of the last three. I've been very fortunate, and to see those guys, even though they are kids, technically, I guess -- which is weird for me to say that, since I'm not that much older than them -- but it's fun to see the excitement on their face and it makes you realize how special this is. It gives the team a little jolt, too. You've got a bunch of young guys that love to play the game that are really excited."
Considering his long postseason resume, does this start to feel mundane?
"It's never going to feel normal; it's a World Series," Lynn said. "You're getting a chance to start in the World Series against the best team from the American League. You're excited, got a little bit of nerves. But when it's all said and done, you've been doing it all year and you have to take it as another start and be the best prepared for it as you can. And once you go through your pregame stuff, it's all business after that."
It will be unfamiliar business. Lynn has never pitched against the Red Sox and has faced only five of their hitters during the regular season, none for more at-bats than Quintin Berry's and David Ross' three apiece. Those hitters are 3-for-11 against Lynn with only one extra-base hit.
"I have seen him pitch on TV a couple of times, whether it's a travel day and we're catching him on Sunday night game of the week," Boston manager John Farrell said. "We know he has power stuff. He might not throw as downhill as [Adam] Wainwright and Wacha do, but the fact is he's in the starting rotation on a World Series team, and he's been a main contributor to this organization for a couple of years, we fully expect that we're going to get a guy tomorrow that will, I'm sure, have a lot of adrenaline flowing and very good stuff that's going to be thrown at us."
Lynn's innings are at a career-high 213 1/3 and counting entering Sunday, including two starts and one extra-inning relief appearance in the playoffs. Lynn last pitched Oct. 15 in Los Angeles, when he held the Dodgers to two runs in 5 1/3 innings for a win that pushed the Cardinals to within one game of taking the National League Championship Series.
He will be working Sunday on 11 days' rest.
"This is the first time in my life I've thrown over 200 innings during the regular season. so I'm OK with it, especially this time of year," Lynn said. "That's nice. I've been able to do things in between starts, and being in the bullpen and throwing bullpens and flat grounds and things like that, you're able to work on things that you need to do to be ready. The rest, most of the time, just helps."
The evolution continues. On Saturday, it was Kelly's turn. On Sunday, it will be Lynn.
"Lance, a lot like Joe, an intense competitor, a guy who loves being on that big stage and the opportunity to do something big for his club," Matheny said. "We saw that Lance was fighting his way through September, and we got into a heated spot, and all of a sudden he turned it up another level and got some big starts for us. So we're anxious to watch him come out and do what he's been doing."