Lance Lynn's 16th win has been difficult to come by. The St. Louis Cardinals' attempt to clinch the NL Central this week has been nearly as tricky.
The Cardinals will set out to accomplish both Saturday night in Arizona against a Diamondbacks team that assured itself of the worst record in baseball hours after firing its manager.St. Louis (89-71) is already assured a fourth straight playoff appearance and is seeking a second straight division title along with a third 90-win season in four years. A win coupled with a Pittsburgh loss would wrap things up; otherwise the race will come down to the final day of the regular season.Friday's 7-6 series-opening victory in 10 innings kept the Cardinals a game in front of the Pirates. St. Louis held a 3 1/2-game lead on Saturday but lost three of four heading into this series.They've won five straight against the Diamondbacks, though Friday's wasn't easy after the Cardinals blew a 6-2 lead."That's a big win," said reliever Pat Neshek, who allowed three runs in the eighth. "That's a huge, huge win, and tomorrow I think it's going to really carry over."Jhonny Peralta was 3 for 5 with three RBIs and has a .412 average in 10 career games against the Diamondbacks.Arizona (63-97) was playing its first game since the dismissal of manager Kirk Gibson and bench coach Alan Trammell, who is curiously managing the team in its final three games. The Diamondbacks have lost of nine of 10 and matched their second-highest loss total in team history.Ender Inciarte went 4 for 6 to extend his hitting streak to 14 games with a .417 average, though he went hitless in three at-bats against Lynn back on May 22.Lynn's three-start winless stretch has been little fault of his own, as he's gone 0-2 with a 2.14 ERA and .164 opponents' batting average. Another decent outing will get Lynn (15-10, 2.73 ERA) to a new career high for innings pitched. He's currently four shy of last year's 201 2/3 innings.The right-hander surrendered three runs and four hits in six innings of Sunday's 7-2 loss to Cincinnati. He yielded two home runs and has seen three leave the yard in his last two starts after surrendering just two in his previous 17 outings."I made two pitches in the middle of the zone for homers, balls that ran back over the middle that weren't supposed to run back middle," Lynn told MLB's official website. "That's not something that I like to do, give up homers."Lynn is 2-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four starts and two relief efforts against Arizona.He faces Wade Miley (8-12, 4.35), whose inconsistency has spanned all of 2014. After seven straight starts of allowing three runs or fewer, the left-hander surrendered six runs and eight hits with four walks over 4 1/3 innings of Sunday's 8-3 loss at Colorado."Didn't have very good command at all," said Miley, who with 3 2/3 innings stands to become the second left-hander to pitch at least 200 innings in consecutive seasons for the Diamondbacks. "And it's getting old to have one good start and then the next start where you walk three or four guys. Couldn't find the fastball early and it just snowballed with every other pitch."Miley is 1-2 with a 4.26 ERA and .354 opponents' batting average in three starts against St. Louis. Matt Carpenter is 4 for 8 against him and Peralta is 2 for 2.
Lance Lynn throws his fastball 80.2 percent of the time this season, which is second-most in MLB and eight percentage points more often than third-most. Miguel Montero has a .760 OPS in plate appearances to end in a fastball this season, which is 51 points below the league average among qualified hitters.