Though a formality at this point, the Cardinals officially clinched the NL Central tonight with a 7-0 blanking of the Cubs. The offense got to Cubs starter Travis Wood early, scoring three times on a two-run double by Yadier Molina and an RBI single by Jon Jay. Wood exited after the first, as the one inning put him exactly at the 200-inning mark.
David Freese hit a solo home run off of Cubs reliever Brooks Raley in the third. The Cardinals added two more against Raley in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk by Matt Holliday and an RBI ground out by Molina. Matt Holliday crushed a solo home run into the bullpen at Busch Stadium in the bottom of the sixth against reliever Blake Parker.
Meanwhile, Cardinals starter Laynce Lynn was nearly untouchable, holding the Cubs scoreless over six innings on four hits and no walks while striking out nine. Kevin Siegrist, Edward Mujica, Carlos Martinez, and Trevor Rosenthal combined for three scoreless innings to wrap up the game.
The Cardinals aren’t done playing meaningful baseball yet, however. They are tied with the Braves at 95-65. The team with the best record gets home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and gets to play the winner of the Wild Card playoff game, ostensibly weaker than either remaining divisional winner.
The Orioles singlehandedly kept the rumor mill churning this weekend. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the club is interested in making a play for free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, adding him to a list of potential candidates that also includes free agent righty Alex Cobb. The two are expected to command similar contracts in free agency, but Morosi notes that the Orioles may prefer Cobb based on his familiarity with the AL East.
Lynn, 30, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Despite missing the 2016 season, he bounced back with a respectable 11-8 record in 33 starts and complemented his efforts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 186 1/3 innings for the 2017 Cardinals. He lost several days with a blister on his pitching hand in early September, but managed to avoid any major injuries and can reasonably be expected to shoulder another heavy workload in 2018.
Lynn may not be the Orioles’ first choice to beef up their starting rotation, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be in high demand as one of very few viable starters on the market this winter. The veteran righty rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals on Thursday and will likely be seeking a multi-year contract, one that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates around five years and $100+ million. If the Orioles are willing to bite that bullet, they’ll still need to compensate the Cardinals with their third pick in next year’s draft.