ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Cardinals want Lance Lynn to gain better control of more than just his pitch assortment. They're trying to help him channel his emotions, too.
The right-hander has been a big success, making the All-Star team his first year in the rotation and winning 11 games before the break again this year. During the drought Lynn is going through right now, the frustration shows all too well.
Lynn (11-5) has lost four of his past five starts and allowed 10 runs in 9 1/3 innings his past two times out.
Manager Mike Matheny met with the 26-year-old pitcher the day after watching the shoulders sag, the pace drag and the complaints pile up about broken-bat dribblers, seeing-eye hits and mistakes on defense.
"His tendency is to be that aggressive guy, to the point he doesn't know what is expected of him," Matheny said. "We want him to be himself but also understand there's some things inside the game how you're perceived, how your teammates respond."
Matheny's not the only one counseling Lynn.
"He's getting bombarded from the veteran guys, too," Matheny said. "I think he's got a real clear picture now, and I'm anxious to watch him compete the next time."
Next time, the Cardinals would like to see a pitcher who won't take it all too personally.
"First and foremost, he needs to get out there and win, get out there and compete," Matheny said. "Things weren't going his way and he was trying to keep himself from exploding and meanwhile slowed down the pace of the game."
In a 5-3 loss to the Padres on Saturday, Lynn gave up four runs in five ponderous innings while getting his share of bad breaks. Among them, first baseman Matt Adams failed to cover the bag on a comebacker that became a gift infield hit, and a broken-bat chopper drove in a run.
"Yeah, when I make that pitch it seems to be going for a hit instead of having success with it," Lynn said. "It's just kind of the bounces of the game, and that's kind of the stretch I'm in right now."
The previous start, there were a lot of well-placed hits, too.
"He's had some weird things happen, he really has," Matheny said. "It's not easy to put your finger on 'How do I fix this' when you have ground balls sneaking through or infield hits, bloops."
Make no mistake, there's been plenty of good times, too.
Lynn has been the beneficiary of prolific run support, with his average of 5.8 runs per start second most in the majors behind only Detroit 13-game winner Max Scherzer' at 5.89. His 4.13 ERA is the highest on the staff by more than a run and both he and 13-game winner Adam Wainwright have five losses although Wainwright is also among the league leaders with a 2.44 ERA.
That no doubt makes it more difficult for teammates hearing it from Lynn, even if most people in the stands can't pick it up. And even, as Matheny adds, whether that was Lynn's intent.
"When a play doesn't happen behind you and you start screaming, you've got a professional athlete who takes a lot of pride in how he goes about his business," Matheny said. "If something is obvious that you should have made a play and you see an outburst from somebody, whether it's me over here or somebody on the field, it comes across in the wrong way."
Wainwright is every bit as intense, and had a public disagreement with the manager after believing he'd been yanked too soon earlier in the season. The emotions didn't linger.
"Things don't go his way, he's not afraid to show a little emotion, and every once in a while everybody takes it too far, but you fix it. You fix it quick," Matheny said. "It's a dance, it really is, trying to always walk that line of being the most competitive intense player around while also maintaining some sort of code of how you're supposed to act and carry yourself."
Matheny's message to Lynn: Concentrate on the next pitch, channel it all against the opponent.
"The last thing I want to do is take away the spirit of this guy," Matheny said. "I'm not asking any of these guys to be choirboys, but I do care very much how they all get along."